There are a lot of choices for birth control: Pills, condoms, IUDs and patches to name a few. And that’s just for women.
For men, it has been long assumed that there are two main forms of birth control: Condoms or a vasectomy. Yet, with “Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance,” or RISUG, this may have changed.
The 15 minute procedure is in its third phase of trials in India. After applying some local anaesthetic, a doctor makes a small pinhole in the base of the scrotum, then pulls out the vas deferens tube with a pair of forceps. The doctor then injects a polymer gel, called Vasalgel in the US, pushes the vas deferens back inside, and repeats the process with the other deferens. A band aid is put over the hole, and the man is sent on his way.
How does this prevent insemination? Well, one of the theories is that the polymer lines the walls of the vas deferens, and negative/positive polarization tears the sperm apart using a polyelectrolytic effect. In other words, as the negatively charged sperm passes by the positively charged polymer, cell membranes are ruptured and sperm tails damaged. Sperm are therefore incapable of fertilizing an egg. Holy science batman!
No fear for men worried about side effects: Sperm production and male hormone levels are left unchanged. Men still have the same level of sperm, but they just can’t impregnate anyone. Post-procedure, some men report swelling, but this went away within a few weeks.
Additionally, RISUG does not protect against STIs. For that you will still need condoms. However, there are many arguments for RISUG. The procedure is relatively cheap, since the syringe used for injection costs more than the actual polymer itself. Furthermore, the procedure lasts for up to 10 years.
But, if a man decides he wants to reverse the procedure, it’s easy enough. Doctors simply flush the vas deferens with an injection of sodium bicarbonate and a man’s sperm once again become viable. This makes RISUG more easily reversible than a vasectomy (where the vas deferens is cut instead of coated).
Another advantage to RISUG? It is effective almost immediately. This compared to a vasectomy, which takes three months to dependably clear the sperm out of a man’s system.
While RISUG is still in clinical trials in India, there is planning to begin more trials in the US in 2012, with some hoping to have it on the market by 2015.
This procedure isn’t available in North America yet, but in the future it may become a viable alternative for couples who cannot, or do not wish to be on other hormonal birth control.
After all, as it stands most of the responsibility for birth control is on women. It is easy to forget to take a pill and in some rare cases hormonal birth control may have unwanted side effects, such as mood swings or blood clots.