Progress and prospects in male hormonal contraception

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Testosterone functions as a contraceptive by suppressing the secretion of luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone from the pituitary. Low concentrations of these hormones deprive the testes of the signals required for spermatogenesis and results in markedly decreased sperm concentrations and effective contraception in a majority of men. Male hormonal contraception is well tolerated and acceptable to most men. Unfortunately, testosterone-alone regimens fail to completely suppress spermatogenesis in all men, meaning that in some the potential for fertility remains.

Recent findings

Because of this, novel combinations of testosterone and progestins, which synergistically suppress gonadotropins, have been studied. Two recently published testosterone/progestin trials are particularly noteworthy. In the first, a long-acting injectable testosterone ester, testosterone decanoate, was combined with etonogestrel implants and resulted in 80–90% of subjects achieving a fewer than 1 million sperm per milliliter. In the second, a daily testosterone gel was combined with 3-monthly injections of depot medroxyprogesterone acetate producing similar results.

Summary

Testosterone-based hormone combinations are able to reversibly suppress human spermatogenesis; however, a uniformly effective regimen has remained elusive. Nevertheless, improvements, such as the use of injectable testosterone undecanoate, may lead to a safe, reversible and effective male contraceptive.

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