There is something romantic about a long weekend.

Or at least, so I imagine.

While my Easter fantasies quite happily revolve around hours of uninterrupted Netflix bingeing fuelled by Lindt bunnies and hot cross buns, I can certainly envisage the exciting possibilities a long weekend getaway could hold for the lovebirds among us.

When the bustle of everyday life abruptly stops for a four-day weekend, there will be those who will likely take advantage of the change of pace. As they well should.

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Luckily, legions of women have adjusted their hormones, been probed and injected, or become intimately acquainted with certain medical instruments that look like props from a science fiction movie just for the pleasure.

Indeed, as the song goes, "contraception is a girl's best frenemy".

It's also a right pain in the uterus.

But why is it almost always a woman's responsibility?

Why should women have to be the ones to deal with years of side effects, discomfort or the abject terror of a missed pill?

And why, more than 60 years after the invention of the pill, does contraception still suck so much?

ROTORUA DAILY POST
1 Apr, 2017 5:00am
5 minutes to read

If men were able to get pregnant, I'd quite comfortably bet we would have hundreds, if not thousands, of highly effective male contraceptive options; all without side effects, easily reversible, and with an abundance of manly bells and whistles.

They'd be packaged in blue, green, and khaki boxes and given names like "Manguard" and "Lothariosterol".

The dosages would be labelled "strong", "herculean" and "beast".

Think about it. You can buy ribbed, studded, flavoured, even glow-in-the-dark male condoms.

But have you ever heard of a watermelon flavoured contraceptive pill, a leopard-print contraceptive patch, or a glow in the dark arm implant?

Or any kind of female contraceptive option that doesn't come with a list of potential side effects including abdominal pain, nausea, weight gain, moodiness, headaches, depression, thrombosis or, if that wasn't enough fun in one packet, a higher risk of cancer?

While it may just seem like a "fact of life" that contraception is destined to be "women's business" and that it may very well come with unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects, it's actually no accident.

Large pharmaceutical companies spent years investigating male contraceptive options - until they realised the impact a new player in the contraceptive market would have upon their bottom lines.

As gynaecology professor and former head of research and development in women's health for Organon International Herjan Coelingh Bennink told Bloomberg News, "The fact that the big companies are run by white, middle-aged males who have the same feeling - that they would never do it - plays a major role.

If those companies were run by women, it would be totally different."

Which means that it may well be a small university start-up in rural India that brings the world the first truly viable, long acting, and easily reversible male contraceptive option.

A new product produced by Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur biomedical engineer Sujoy Guha represents a major game-changer both in the industry's revenue stream and in the way we think about contraception.

The basic idea is this: A polymer gel with the consistency of melted chocolate is injected into the sperm carrying vas deferens tube in the scrotum, damaging sperm tails and heads and rendering them infertile. It is administered with local anaesthetic and has a short recovery time.

The procedure is called RISUG (Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance) and it can be reversed by a second injection that breaks the gel down, allowing sperm to function normally.

The initial results of RISUG are impressive.

Research on 540 men who received the treatment found the drug is 98 per cent effective - around the same level of efficacy of properly used condoms.

Guha told Bloomberg News that the drug is still preventing pregnancies 13 years after treatment.

Can you imagine 13 years of birth control from just one non-hormone altering injection?

Intrauterine devices can last for several years, but the majority have to be replaced within a decade, while the pill has to be taken at the same time every day... or else.

Call me radical, but doesn't it seem strange that women have been simply expected to put up with the side effects and discomfort of hormonal contraception for decades, while men have effectively been let off the hook?

And let's not forget the 2008 study of an effective hormone-based male contraceptive injection that was closed down because the men in the study reported experiencing mild to moderate mood disorders.

Imagine the situation we'd be in globally if women's concerns about the side effects of hormonal birth control were taken that seriously.

It may not be the most romantic thought for a long weekend, but male contraception options like RISUG may just be the beginning of a contraceptive revolution.

We all know that it takes two to tango. It's time we took steps to equalise the burden that comes with being living, breathing, loving beings.