Male contraceptive trial halted due to side-effects - the same ones women have suffered for decades

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Hayley Spencer
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A male contraceptive injection has made headlines after being found to be almost as effective as the female pill. However, for now, the prospect of it hitting shelves any time soon and of women being able to split responsibility for family planning more equally with a male partner remains a pipe dream.

And the reason why is enough to rile anyone who has experienced the often unpleasant side-effects of the pill. In fact, any woman in general.

The study for the jab was halted early due to some negative side-effects on participants. Symptoms including depression, acne and inflated libido led to 20% of participants dropping out of the study.

Sounds pretty familiar, right?

The side-effects are remarkably similar to some of those resulting from taking the female combined pill – the contraception method chosen by 48% of women aged 16 to 19, 64% of women aged between 20 and 24 and 55% of those aged between 25 and 29.

And these are issues that women have complained of since its inception, without the offer of a foolproof alternative.

Read more: Women are sharing their experiences on the pill with #MyPillStory

Despite this, the male hormone jab – which three-quarters of participants who remained in the study stated they were happy to continue using – has been deemed unfit for public use.

This sends a message that it's OK for women to experience these unpleasant side-effects and potentially detrimental health issues (the pill causes higher risk of breast cancer for one) but it's not OK for men. An injustice which has not gone unnoticed since the findings were published on Thursday.

Here is just a small sample of the responses from women on Twitter noting the stench of a double-standard:

The contraceptive pill has been around since 1962 and was heralded as the precursor to sexual liberation, allowing women to take the reigns on family planning for the first time.

These positive associations mean that the negative side-effects have been largely overlooked through the years. In fact, despite many women complaining of feelings of depression while on a hormonal contraceptive, these undesirable effects on our emotions and personality have only been widely acknowledged this year. And despite the link being confirmed, the pill is still being manufactured and sold to women.

The new male contraceptive jab is the biggest development in male contraception for 40 years in terms of its efficiency. It has been found to be around 96% effective – far safer than condoms, which are only around 82% effective. Therefore it is the nearest we have to come to finding a solution to a equal responsibility for unwanted pregnancy.

And if we're talking about equality, given such a vested interest in rectifying the effects of a male contraceptive, the same attention needs to be focused on creating a side-effect free hormonal contraceptive for women, too.

Photo: iStock