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For decades, women have had lots of options for birth control. Today these include the pill, patch, contraceptive sponge, diaphragm, Depo-Provera shot, NuvaRing vaginal ring, and intrauterine devices, or IUDs. For men, there are still just two: a condom or vasectomy.

But the reason isn’t because men aren’t willing to use different methods. Research and development for male contraceptives has been slow, and the field is littered with abandoned and unfinished efforts. Investigators working on male contraceptive drugs say there are two major challenges to bringing these products to the market. For one, blocking the production of millions of sperm per day in men versus preventing the release of one egg per month in women is just more complicated, biologically speaking. Secondly, there’s little funding available for clinical trials of these drugs.

Most recently, a study published in October and backed by the World Health Organization showed that a hormonal birth control injection for men effectively prevented pregnancy in their female partners. But the trial was stopped in 2011 on the recommendation of an outside panel noting one participant’s suicide and serious side effects in others, including depression.

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Image: By Bryancalabro – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21125607

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MIT Technology Review

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