Current contraceptive choices for men?

Originally Published: February 16, 1995 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: June 5, 2014
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Dear Alice,

What about male contraceptives?

—Equal responsibility

Dear Equal responsibility,

Many men would like to take on equal responsibility for contraception; unfortunately, the list of currently available contraceptive options is significantly smaller for men than for women. Male-directed methods of birth control include male condoms, vasectomy, and withdrawal (a.k.a. "pulling out"). A few points to consider about each method:

Method

Pros

Cons

Condoms (latex, polyurethane, or polyisoprene sheaths that fit over the erect penis)

98 percent effective when used correctly, every time

Helps to reduce risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Inexpensive, widely available

Many varieties, sizes

Some men find condoms uncomfortable

Must be put on during sex, every time (although this 'con' can become a 'pro' if you get your partner involved and turn it into foreplay!)

 

Vasectomy (surgery to cut the vas deferens, the tube that sperm travel through)

Over 99 percent effective

Permanent, no need to think about birth control in the heat of the moment

Not easily reversible

Requires surgery, potentially expensive

No STI protection

Withdrawal (when a man pulls out of his partner's vagina before ejaculating)

Always available and free

Up to 96 percent effective with perfect use (meaning he pulls out before ejaculating, every time)

Approximately 22 percent failure rate with typical use

No STI protection

Have to pull out before climax, every time

Based on this information, you can see that a man who wants to retain his fertility and use a more reliable method of birth control may determine he is best served by condoms (condoms are also the only available method that protect against STIs). At the moment, other birth control options involve cooperating with a female partner in the use of condoms, hormonal methods, fertility awareness, and/or non-hormonal methods like an IUD or diaphragm. For more information about female-directed methods check out the Go Ask Alice! Contraception category.

A number of new male-directed methods are currently in clinical trials in the United States and other countries; however it will likely be a few years before any are on the market. In the mean time, men and women who would like to prevent pregnancy can work with their partner(s) to identify the best method(s) for them and to share any associated costs.

Alice