Unisex, Hormone-Free Oral Contraceptives Are On the Horizon — And They Will Be Free of Side Effects

Hormone + Side Effects Free Contraceptives

By 2025, there will be a unisex, completely reversible, non-hormonal, side effect-free form of birth control available to the general public. At least, that’s what researchers at University of California-Berkeley anticipate as they work toward their contraceptive breakthrough with their company Your Choice Therapeutics.

Led by founders Akash bakshi and Nadja Mannowetz from Berkeley, the contraceptive will target two aspects of sperm in order to prevent fertilization of an egg. For one thing, it will weaken the sperm’s ability to swim and reach the egg, based on a medication currently used to treat tapeworm. “It prevents tapeworms from being able to reproduce. So, it zaps them of their energy to reproduce. And we’re doing exactly the same thing, just with human sperm,” Bakshi told NBC Los Angeles. It also inhibits sperm’s ability to drill into the egg, should it manage to reach it. The contraception will come in the form of an oral contraceptive that both men and women will take, as well as a vaginal application that is used prior to intercourse.

Brand Promise Core Values Contraceptives
Photo Credit yourchoicetx.com

By creating an effective contraceptive that is free of side effects and disruption to hormones, the founders of Your Choice Therapeutics hope to make birth control medication something that both men and women will feel good about using, in turn increasing the prevalence of contraceptive use. “The bottom line is that men don’t have good options and women apparently have so many choices, yet they are all really bad,” Mannowetz said in a Techcrunch press release. “They’re all based on that over 60-year-old idea of hormone-based drugs.” With Your Choice Therapeutic’s forthcoming option, they hope to reach as many people as possible. They specifically cite the direct correlation between access to family planning and reduction in poverty rates among both children and adults.

Some critics of this particular goal have warned against heralding contraception as a way to lift people out of poverty. “This idea distracts from the structural factors — like the availability of social services and racial discrimination — that determine economic opportunities,” reproductive health experts wrote in a New York Times op-ed in January. “Providing contraception is critical because it is a core component of women’s health care, not because of an unfounded belief that it is a silver bullet for poverty.” It turns out that black and Latina patients have reported feeling more pressure than their white peers to use contraceptives.

Even so, it goes without saying that men seem to have been exempted from family planning and that women’s options haven’t kept pace with their demands. “I personally think the [pharmaceutical] industry is satisfied; they are making really good money, right? So why should they change anything,” Mannowetz pointed out to Techcrunch. “Millennials are the starting point of change happening. I think now, women stand up and say, ‘we are sick of it.’”