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Contraceptive Research and Development

Hormonal Methods for Men

Methods being given the most attention use of synthetic hormones, such as those used in female birth control pills. Synthetic hormones are the basis for a Chinese treatment known as the "pill and patch method," which consists of an oral pill containing progesterone (a female sex hormone) and a skin patch containing testosterone.

This method has been found to temporarily lower a man's sperm count to zero without causing long-term infertility. Side effects may include abdominal cramps, depression and headaches, similar to side-effects felt by some female pill users. This treatment and others using synthetic hormones are still being researched, but many believe this type of birth control could be available for men within five or six years.

Another area of research is immunocontraceptives, which use the body's own immune system to attack the sperm-production process. A vaccine would cause an immune response to a hormone, FSH, without which sperm are unable to mature. Once the vaccine wears off, men would return to their normal fertility. One drawback is it's effective only in two-thirds of the men tested thus far.

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Pregnancy Vaccine

This method works by vaccinating a woman against the female pregnancy hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin) which is produced by the fertilized egg just after conception. When a pregnancy occurs and the embryo begins producing HCG, this molecule triggers an immune reaction against it, just as it would against a foreign invader. This kills the embryo, preventing pregnancy. The "vaccine" lasts for about one year.

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Fertility Computers

Fertility computers calculate which days women are fertile so that intercourse can be avoided to prevent pregnancy. Clinical trials are now being conducted to obtain FDA approval for several models of fertility computers, but these are not currently on the market in the United States and must be ordered from overseas.

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