‘Male’ Contraceptive Trial – The truth about owning a uterus.

Please excuse the overly simplified gender discussion in parts of this post. I always do my best to use gender neutral language in all posts but for the sake of clarity here I have made a few exceptions.

If you’ve been anywhere on social media this week you will probably have seen an article on the halting of a drug trial for a ‘Male’ contraceptive.  You’ve probably also seen the responses from ‘women’ who think it’s either insulting or hilarious. I’d like to take a minute to explain in a simple way what it’s actually like owning a uterus and being responsible for contraception. First a little background info…

The trial of a ‘male’ contraceptive injections has been shown to be nearly 100% effective in a trial involving 320 men. The injection lowers sperm counts by acting on the pituitary gland.

Despite the fact that 75% of the ‘men’ in the trial said they’d be happy to keep taking it, researchers have said that more work needs doing to manage the side effects.

  • depression and other mood disorders
  • muscle pain
  • acne
  • increased libido.

The side effects caused 20 men to drop out of the trial. There was one case of depression, one intentional paracetamol overdose, and one case of an irregular heart rate.

Because of the reported side effects the trial was discontinued after reviewers concluded that the risks to the participants outweighed the potential benefits.

Doesn’t sound overly pleasant for the participants but with 75% of them willing to continue after a year I really don’t think that’s so bad.

Now on to the ‘female’ half of the story.

The most common starter contraceptive is some variation of ‘The Pill’. There are many different variations and some of them suit some people better than others so it’s not uncommon to try two or even three different ones until you find one that suits you.

For those who are unaware, usually ‘the pill’ is taken for a month then left off for 7 days which is usually when you have a period. After 7 days you start the next month of pills, rinse and repeat.

Below is a list of possible side effects from Microgynon 30 which is the contraceptive I started taking age 16 and stayed on for about 7 years. For the sake of this post I’ve removed the descriptive information and just left the list of conditions.

Rare side effects (between 1 and 10 in every 10,000 users may be affected)

  • harmful blood clots in a vein or artery for example: DVT, PE, heart attack, stroke, TIA, blood clots in the liver, stomach/intestine, kidneys or eye.
  • Severe allergic reaction or worsening of hereditary angioedema.
  • Breast cancer include
  • Cancer of the cervix
  • Severe liver problems

Common side effects (between 100 and 1000 in every 10,000 users may be affected)

  • feeling sick
  • stomach ache
  • putting on weight
  • headaches
  • depressive moods or mood swings
  • sore or painful breasts

Uncommon side effects (between 10 and 100 in every 10,000 users may be affected)

  • being sick and stomach upsets
  • fluid retention
  • migraine
  • loss of interest in sex
  • breast enlargement
  • skin rash, which may be itchy

Rare side effects (between 1 and 10 in every 10,000 users may be affected)

  • poor tolerance of contact lenses
  • losing weight
  • increase of interest in sex
  • vaginal or breast discharge

Other side effects reported

  • Bleeding and spotting between your periods
  • Chloasma (yellow brown patches on the skin).
  • Occurrence or deterioration of the movement disorder chorea
  • Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis

As if that weren’t enough there is also a list og conditions that can worsen through use of the pill.

  • yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
  • persistent itching (pruritus)
  • kidney or liver problems
  • gall stones
  • certain rare medical conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus
  • blister-like rash (herpes gestationis) whilst pregnant
  • an inherited form of deafness (otosclerosis)
  • a personal or family history of a form of sickle cell disease
  • swelling of body parts (hereditary angioedema)
  • an inherited disease called porphyria
  • cancer of the cervix. 

These are all side effects of taking the pill.. side effects that teenagers and young people risk because despite all of this it’s still not as bad as having uncontrolled periods or unexpected pregnancy. That and ‘it doesn’t feel as good wearing a condom’. The longer you take a pill the higher the risks, you can also develop side effects out of the blue after years of being relatively happy on any one of these medications.

If you know me at all you’ll know I’m usually a pretty positive person but I’ve been through a short phase of suicidal thoughts and the cause? Contraception. As if the body weight and shape changes, pain, nausea, mood swings and risk of life threatening medical complications wasn’t bad enough.

The pill.

‘Women’ everywhere are living with these things, every day but the ‘male’ contraceptive causes a few chaps to get acne and even smaller number to feel blue and it’s scrapped. 75% of the men in the trial were happy to take it and they scrapped it. I don’t want this post to minimise or overlook the risks to the guys on the trial, it terrible that anyone has to feel depressed. In an ideal world I wouldn’t put anyone at risk with medication but this isn’t an ideal world. I’m using this as an excuse to raise awareness about the very real risks that ‘women’ take all the time.

There is only one thing I can think of that would make being a uterus-owning-pill-taking-menstruating person worse and that’s the simple fact that not everyone who goes through this is a woman. There are plenty of non-binary and trans* people out there going through all the same things but without the ‘female’ solidarity that we so often take comfort in. For many people the struggle with contraception and uterus management is a silent one, simply because they aren’t expected to have a uterus at all.

I guess the message with this post is that there is no black and white and nobody every really knows what someone else is going through. Please spare a moment for all the uterus owning people who are suffering in silence right now.


2 thoughts on “‘Male’ Contraceptive Trial – The truth about owning a uterus.

  1. I don’t think the silence is due to people not being expected to have a uterus it is due to the fact that women are solely expected to prevent the breeding process after all men are expected even encouraged throughout history to sow their oats but women were and in some cultures still are expected to be virgins on their wedding night, women are expected to control their uterus until the man decided he wants to be a father and if she dares to get pregnant first it’s her problem as he does a runner (again a generalisation not all men do this).

    I agree that no one should be intentionally made ill by their medication but women have been expected to control reproduction throughout history I feel that for gender equality and balance men should be expected as a matter of course to have these injections and feel the full raft of side-effects they have forced us to endure since the female pill was first made available, they should also be made to wear for a full 9 months one of those simulated pregnancy suits (so fetchingly demonstrated by Peter Andre on Loose Women this week) and have to experience the weight gain and discomfort of pregnancy and the pain of labour as part of the course for being considers a well suited partner – less of the sewing wild oats for modern men more of the female experience then maybe they will be more respectful of their wives and partners and more willing to look out for the other women they come into contact with on a daily basis.

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