Male birth control is on the way, and it could do more than just prevent unwanted pregnancies

When the hormonal contraceptive pill was first invented it suddenly gave women control of their reproductive health for the first time.    

But it also meant the responsibility of birth control has mostly been left to women, while men, at most, had to buy a condom or maybe get a vasectomy when they were done reproducing.   

Cultural anthologist Dr Martha Terry said women have been carrying the main obligations of birth control for decades and are ready for men to be more involved.   

"Women want men to have a way to be a part of the process and if men have a birth control method, they are able to have a more equitable conversation about what method to use," she said.   

And soon they can be. A hormonal male birth control is right around the corner which could help shift some of that burden onto men while also giving them greater control of their own fertility.   

A daily shoulder gel is expected to be available in the United States as early as 2030 with initial human trials proving promising.   

While there are still several hurdles for the drug, when it is finally on the shelves, it is likely to have drastic cultural impacts around the world. But one researcher says it could also inadvertently help men live longer, healthier lives.    

In New Zealand, there is an age-old joke about the typical Kiwi bloke with his "she'll be right" attitude.   

Normally this is a light-hearted ribbing directed at our hardy fellas, but it's not without its downsides - specifically when it comes to health outcomes.    

Men in New Zealand are less likely to visit the doctor for a regular checkup than women. They die nearly four years earlier than women and are around 20 percent more likely to die of a heart attack and almost 30 percent more likely to get diabetes.   

But professor of medicine at the Lundquist Institute Dr Christina Wang thinks birth control could help change this by getting men to visit the doctor more.   

"Guys never go and see their doctor until they have a stroke or something, they might not even know they have high blood pressure until then.  

"But if they are on birth control it will make them more aware of their reproductive system and health and when they take care of it [birth control] they will also get their blood pressure and pulse checked."  

Dr Wang is leading the development of several different types of birth control including a hormonal shoulder gel – which is proving promising.   

An 18-month study for the gel just finished in February this year with another planned for 2025. If all goes well, Dr Wang said the gel could be available in the United States as early as 2030.   

The main purpose of male birth control isn't to replace women's options but add more, Dr Wang said.   

"The hope is not taking the responsibly of birth control away from women [entirely] but [providing another option] for women who cannot tolerate hormonal methods, so the men can help.   

"It is mainly targeted to couples who are not using any contraception and targeting men who want to be responsible. In the past 10 years with gender equity and the movement for reproductive freedom, men are much more motivated to take it. "  

But like anything, male birth control is not without its challenges. Senior lecturer at Victoria University's school of science in society Dr Nayantara Sheoran Appleton is currently working on a project looking at the implications of hormonal contraceptives, reproductive rights, demographic anxieties, and population control.   

Dr Sheoran Appleton said while more birth control options is positive, it's important to look at the political and societal circumstances it's being introduced into.   

She said male birth control could also have interesting implications on women's healthcare, not only because it allows the burden of birth control to be shared, but also because it might prompt better and more varied methods of birth control to be developed for women.