Health
According to UW Medicine, the gel being tested is composed of Nestorone® (segesterone acetate), a progestin hormone used for female contraception, and testosterone.
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According to UW Medicine, the gel being tested is composed of Nestorone® (segesterone acetate), a progestin hormone used for female contraception, and testosterone.
Credit: HALLIE EASLEY / POPULATION COUNCIL

Birth control for men is being tested in Seattle

It's a gel that is clear, smells vaguely of alcohol and has the consistency of hand sanitizer.

The University of Washington School of Medicine is one of three sites in the country testing the gel.

A man rubs it on his body daily and over a couple of months it lowers his sperm count. Testers are rubbing it on their shoulders.

"When it gets below an appropriate level then we tell them they can stop other forms of contraception," said Dr. William Bremner, professor at the UW School of Medicine.

The demand for male birth control

Kim Malcolm talks with Dr. Stephanie Page with the University of Washington's School of Medicine about a male contraceptive that's being tested in Seattle.


The gel is made from a female contraception hormone, progestin, and testosterone.

Bremner helped develop the gel is one of the leaders of the test trial, which is anticipated to include 400 couples. There's a large demand for contraceptive among men, he said.

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"There hasn't been a new technique for men two hundred years or something," he said, referring to condoms, which have been around since 1839. Vasectomies, too, are more widespread, but can mean the end of a man's fertile life. Other measures, approved elsewhere, have not taken off in the U.S.

"Time's right," Bremner said.

The men will be monitored closely; when their sperm count falls low enough, the couples will be instructed to use the gel as their only birth control. The man's sperm count will be checked throughout the year.

So far researchers have recorded side affects of slight muscle mass increase and a few cases of acne. Four hundred couples around the world will test the gel over the next year.

Swimming sperm.
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But don't expect to see it at the pharmacy right away. Bremner said after this trial, the gel must be tested on a larger group and then approved by the Federal Drug Administration.