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

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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.

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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There is only one form of permanent birth control solution for males, which is a vasectomy.

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.

A doctor may carry out a minimally invasive outpatient procedure or more complex surgical procedure to cut or tie this tube. 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.

Learn more about a vasectomy here.

The following are some barrier methods of male birth control.

Condoms

Condoms are a popular and accessible barrier method that can reduce the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. 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 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%.

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. However, they can enhance its effectiveness by using it with a condom.

Behavioral methods may also be beneficial, although they often require additional birth control methods for optimal safety.

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.

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, 18% 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.

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 sexually transmitted infections, particularly if a person comes into contact with their partner’s bodily fluids, including semen or vaginal fluid.

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 sexually transmitted diseases.

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 another technique 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.

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.