PR key to education once male contraceptives hit the market

After decades of research, the commercial reality of male hormonal contraception may be on the horizon.

After decades of research, the commercial reality of male hormonal contraception may be on the horizon.

Researchers from UCLA and the University of Sydney have published a study in The Lancet showing that male sperm levels will return to normal within months of stopping hormonal birth control treatments. This new research will allow men to shoulder more of the responsibility for family planning options. The first male hormonal birth control may not come in the form of a pill, like its female counterpart, but as a combination of implants and shots, or biodegradable testosterone pellets. The new evidence that fertility can be easily restored once treatment has ceased offers men a palatable option other than the surgery and discomfort associated with a vasectomy.

Why does it matter?

Female contraception is a huge market for advertisers and PR professionals. From print to broadcast, evidence of such products can be seen everywhere.

"Marketing to women about contraception is about making alliances and finding the most appropriate outlets for your messages," says Megan Svensen, EVP of healthcare at Marina Maher. She adds that men who are going to use birth control are going to be of a younger demographic, and you need to find the right tools in approaching them. "This is an opportunity for PR to shine, as you look at the advertising restrictions of these products, helping people to understand what the options are, and educating people about these products," Svensen says.

Five facts:

1 Male contraception includes the hormones androgen and progestin. Similar to its female counterpart, which stops ovulation, the male form stops the production of sperm.

2 With 95% of women using birth control during their lifetimes, advertising for "the pill" is on the rise. Yet some TV networks have policies about running the ads because of the controversial nature of the product.

3 According to the journal Pediatrics, American adolescents experience more than 14,000 sexual references a year in the American media, driving the question, "Why shouldn't networks run condom ads during daytime and primetime TV?"

4 In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration lifted its ban
on direct-to-consumer advertising for pharmaceuticals, causing the market to be flooded with ads for birth control, allergy medications, sleep aids, and the like.

5 The Trojan Sexual Health Monitor, an annual nationwide survey of men and women 18 to 24 years old, found that 87% of women and 75% of heterosexual men have had sex without a condom, and only 37% of women say they always or often use a condom.

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