Condoms and spermicides are two of males’ most common birth control options, while a vasectomy provides a permanent option.

Close up of a condom in its wrapper, one of the most common forms of male birth control.Share on Pinterest
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A quick look at birth control options for men

Although many birth control options are available, 2018 research suggests that females bear most of the burden of contraception in heterosexual relationships in the United States. However, males can help shoulder some responsibility by researching and using safe birth control options.

Keep reading to learn more about the possible birth control methods for males.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms, “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

Birth control for men are methods that people can use to prevent or reduce the chance of impregnating their sexual partner during sex.

Some birth control options, such as using a condom, are temporary and noninvasive. A vasectomy, on the other hand, is the only permanent form of birth control for males.

Birth control for males works by preventing sperm from entering the vagina. For example, proper use of condoms ensures that pre-ejaculate and ejaculate do not reach the womb and fertilize any eggs. Implantation of a sperm into an egg is the beginning of pregnancy.

Learn more about implantation here.

Different birth control methods have different success rates, similar to birth control options for females. Using birth control correctly, or using more than one type of birth control, significantly decreases the chance of unintentional pregnancy.

There are several birth control options for men. It is important to follow any instructions from a healthcare professional or the manufacturers of the product, to reduce the chance of unintentional pregnancy.

This article talks about perfect and typical use of birth control. Perfect use describes how effective a form of birth control is if everyone uses it exactly as instructed every time they have sex. Typical use describes how effective a form of birth control is if a person sometimes uses it as instructed but may also use it irregularly or imperfectly.

Even with perfect use, contraception is not 100% effective. People should discuss birth control options with a healthcare professional to find the right option for them.

Best for permanent birth control: Vasectomy

A vasectomy is the only permanent form of birth control for males. There are several different vasectomy techniques, but each works by preventing sperm from entering the vas deferens, the tube it normally flows through to exit the penis.

To cut or tie this tube, a doctor may carry out a minimally invasive outpatient procedure or a more complex surgical procedure. The appropriate option depends on a person’s needs and overall health.

While some vasectomies are reversible, the effectiveness of these procedures depends on the method and skill of the healthcare professional performing the vasectomy.

It also takes time — usually about 3 months — for a vasectomy to become fully effective, so a couple must use alternative methods of contraception during this time.

The success rate of vasectomies is higher than 99%, although around 1–2% of people who undergo the procedure experience complications such as pain or excessive bleeding.

Pros

  • suits those who do not want to have children
  • does not impact sexual activity
  • has a high success rate

Cons

  • may not suit those who want to have children in the future
  • does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Learn more about a vasectomy here.

Best for an accessible barrier method: Condoms

Condoms are a popular and accessible barrier method that can reduce the risk of pregnancy and STIs. They come in various shapes, colors, and sizes, and some include a spermicidal lubricant to help kill sperm.

Most condoms consist of latex, but people with latex allergies may purchase condoms comprising other materials, such as polyurethane or polyisoprene. It is important to check the instructions or labeling for potential allergens.

By following proper use guidelines, condoms can be up to 98% effective. However, many people do not use them correctly every time. They may put them on too late, leave the penis in the vagina after ejaculation, or perform actions that cause the condoms to tear.

With typical use, the effectiveness is around 85%.

Pros

  • up to 98% effective against pregnancy
  • protects against STIs
  • easily available from online stores, pharmacies, and supermarkets
  • may be cheaper than other options

Cons

  • can tear or rip during sex, leading to potential pregnancies and STIs
  • may slip off or be too restrictive if a person wears the wrong size

Best for additional protection: Spermicide

Spermicide is a substance that kills sperm. When a person uses it as the sole method of contraception, they need to apply spermicide into the vagina.

With typical use, spermicide fails around 21% of the time. Due to this, spermicide may be an option for people looking for additional protection alongside other methods, such as a condom.

Pros

  • when a person uses spermicide alongside other contraception, it is effective at reducing pregnancy
  • does not change hormone production

Cons

  • has a high failure rate when a person only uses spermicide
  • for best results, a person must use another form of contraception, which may become pricey

Best for monitoring ovulation: Fertility awareness

Fertility awareness is a method that focuses on monitoring a female partner’s menstrual cycles to pinpoint the likely time of ovulation. Partners can then avoid intercourse during this fertile window.

Males cannot practice this method alone. However, they can support female partners by charting menstrual cycles, learning about the approach, and cooperating when they need to abstain from sex.

The effectiveness of fertility awareness varies greatly. If a female has regular, predictable menstruation cycles, it is more likely to be effective. On average, the failure rate is 2–23% per year.

Pros

  • a free method of reducing the risk of pregnancy
  • if a person’s menstrual cycle is regular, it may be more effective

Cons

  • a male partner cannot practice this method alone
  • relies on abstinence during potentially fertile windows
  • less effective for females who do not have regular menstrual cycles
  • no protection against STIs

The following are some other ways a person can reduce the risk of unintentional pregnancy.

However, these methods often have a higher failure rate.

Withdrawal

Withdrawal refers to removing the penis from the vagina before it ejaculates. In theory, this method may prevent sperm from entering the vagina. An older study from 2014 found that, with the correct approach, the effectiveness of withdrawal is around 96%. However, over the course of a year, 22% of couples using this method will experience pregnancy.

The optimal approach requires a person to withdraw before any ejaculation occurs, not just at the beginning of ejaculation — this can be difficult to time. It also requires preventing the ejaculate from making contact with the vagina, so the penis must be completely clear of the vagina.

Pros

  • free method of reducing pregnancy risk
  • may be effective if a person withdraws before any ejaculation occurs

Cons

  • has a failure rate of up to 22%
  • can be difficult to time and control withdrawal
  • does not protect against STIs

Outercourse

Outercourse means giving and receiving sexual pleasure using methods that will not result in pregnancy, such as oral sex, mutual masturbation, or using vibrators. As long as the semen does not make contact with the vagina, there is no chance of pregnancy.

However, there is still a risk of contracting certain STIs, particularly if a person comes into contact with their partner’s bodily fluids, including semen or vaginal fluid.

Pros

  • no chance of pregnancy if semen does not come into contact with the vagina
  • allows people to give and receive sexual pleasure with a lower risk of pregnancy

Cons

  • does not protect against STIs if a person comes into contact with bodily fluids
  • is not suitable for penetrative sex

Abstinence

Abstinence involves refraining from sexual contact. Some people use the term to refer to avoiding vaginal intercourse, while others use it in the context of abstaining from all sexual contact. Abstinence that involves avoiding all sexual contact guarantees a zero risk of pregnancy and eliminates the likelihood of STIs.

Pros

  • no risk of pregnancy
  • no risk of STIs if people do not have any sexual contact

Cons

  • complete restriction on sexual activity
  • people may find it difficult to remain abstinent

Researchers continue to explore male contraceptive methods that work similarly to the female birth control pill or injection. Males do not have the monthly menstrual cycles that females experience. Therefore, these methods must use other techniques to control fertility, such as suppressing certain hormones or reducing sperm count.

A 2019 clinical trial assessed a male birth control pill, which passed the first round of safety and tolerability tests. Hormone testing suggested the drug lowered certain hormones, including testosterone, which reduces fertility. While some men experienced erectile problems, overall interest in sex did not decrease.

Another 2019 study found an injectable mixture of hormones could reduce sperm motility and clog the vas deferens.

While no male birth control pill is available on the market, one might become available in the coming years.

People may wish to contact a healthcare professional to determine which birth control method is best for their situation.

There are several options for female birth control, which, in combination with contraception such as condoms and spermicide, further reduce the risk of unintentional pregnancy. People may wish to speak to their partner to decide which options are best for them.

Learn more about birth control options here.

Some forms of birth control, such as vasectomy, require surgery. Healthcare professionals will determine if a person is a suitable candidate and offer information on how long a person may have to use other birth control methods after surgery to reduce the risk of pregnancy.

People should also contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible if they have any symptoms of an STI, a sexual partner discloses they have one, or if they are at risk of contracting one of these infections.

Most STIs are curable, but a person must ensure they do not risk passing on this infection to a partner during treatment. Some STIs are not curable, but medication can help reduce symptoms.

Here are the answers to some common questions about male birth control.

Why isn’t there a birth control pill for men?

This is mainly because a birth control pill for males needs to work differently than one for females.

Males do not have monthly cycles like females, which means birth control pills cannot stop the release of an egg to prevent pregnancy. Instead, male birth control pills will have to reduce sperm count or suppress different hormones.

Researchers are still looking into a safe and effective birth control pill for males.

What happens if a man takes a birth control pill?

If a male takes a female birth control pill, nothing will happen.

Male and female hormones differ, and birth control pills do not affect males.

What method of birth control for men do doctors recommend most?

Healthcare professionals will recommend birth control options that are best for each individual.

Condoms are easily accessible, relatively less expensive than other methods, and do not permanently change a person’s ability to have children.

Vasectomy, on the other hand, is a permanent option that healthcare professionals may recommend if a person does not want any additional, or any, biological children.

Males have fewer birth control options than females, and most temporary male birth control techniques have a fairly high failure rate.

However, research into newer, potentially more effective methods is ongoing.

In the meantime, health experts recommend that males discuss birth control options with a doctor and their partners.