Currently, there are very few methods of birth control available to men, as that responsibility has largely been assigned to the woman until recently. Today, however, due to rapid cultural shifts through the past few decades, there is a great and increasing number of men around the world looking to take birth control into their own hands! Still, there are few male contraceptives available to couples that engage in intercourse, which are male condoms, which are used by (15.3%) of contraceptive users, withdrawal (4.8%), and vasectomy (8.2%). The remaining 71.7% of users are using exclusively female-oriented birth control methods, such as the pill, IUD, diaphragm, spermicide, etc. Hormone-based birth control for men, like a pill or an implantable contraceptive, has the potential to be widely used but is not yet available for use.
So, of the three listed, how do they compare?
The most popular by far are male condoms– understandably so, as they are single serve, reliable, and do not require commitment. They offer some protection against STDs. They also don’t affect hormones, since it is a physical rather than physiological form of contraceptive, which is a relief for women that do not want the side effects of birth control. That said, condoms must be used every time a couple has intercourse to be fully effective, which can be annoying. The process of putting the condom on can often kill the mood, and many feel that having a condom on makes intercourse less pleasurable. Also, if used incorrectly, they can break, compromising their effectiveness. Whether or not condoms are worth the hassle is quite subjective, as every couple is different and may not have the same sexual requirements as others.
Withdrawal, also known as the pull-out method or coitus interruptus is the least common of the three. The advantages to withdrawal are easy to see- it is free, there are no side effects, and it’s obviously better than nothing. However, the effectiveness of withdrawal is questionable. At it’s best it can be 96% effective, but at its worst there is a 27% chance of pregnancy. It really all depends on the male partner’s ability to pull out in time, so a high level of trust between sexual partners is required. Even if male partner is reliable however, it is possible for pre-ejaculate to contain sperm left in the urethra that can still cause pregnancy. For some it could also make intercourse less enjoyable due to nervousness and sexual interruption. It also does not protect against STDs.
This leaves vasectomy. Vasectomy is a surgical procedure that involves blocking the tubes that carry sperm, effectively resulting in sterilization. There is still ejaculate, just no sperm in it. This makes vasectomies the most reliable form of contraception of the three. It is a one-time procedure that lasts indefinitely, as opposed to most other forms of contraception that require routine usage or usage during intercourse. It also does not affect hormones, unlike female birth control. One of the biggest concerns of getting a vasectomy is fear of it affecting the quality of sex, but it does not affect libido or sexual pleasure for either partner. Likewise, it is not a cure a lack of sex drive or erectile dysfunction. Some couples may want kids in the future, and conception is not possible after a vasectomy. A vasectomy can be reversed but requires another, more costly surgical procedure. Vasectomies also do not protect against STDs- only pregnancy.
Ultimately, the best option depends on the needs of the patient. Deciding to get a vasectomy is a commitment and should definitely be given some prior thought.