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Male contraception – Heat Method

There are only two options of male contraception nowadays: condoms and vasectomy. Of course, such a limited choice cannot satisfy all the needs of a modern man, who gets more and more interested and involved into the birth control and family planning issues. Though there is too little official information about the development of new contraceptives for men, the alternatives do exist.

Heat method is one of the alternative ways of contraception, which can be used by men only. Enlightening the key points of this free, affordable, completely reversible, but still controversial and unexplored method of male birth control is the goal of this article.

History of heat contraception

Using heat as the method to provide temporary male infertility has been known to people since ancient times, but it received the special attention of the scientific community in the past century. Doctors Robinson, Steinberger, and Watanabe researched the concept of heat contraception in 1950s and even showed the evidences of the effectiveness of this method.

It is interesting to note that the most devoted advocate of the heat method is considered to be a female – Dr. Martha Vogeli – a Swiss doctor, who worked hard to research the role of heat in male sterilization and to popularize this alternative method of birth control for men.

Scientific background of heat contraception

Male Contraception – Heat Method

Science gives us quite clear and definite explanation of how heat influences the ability of man to conceive a child. The point is that in order to produce enough viable spermatozoids (at least 10 – 12 millions) male testicles (so to say, the “spermatozoid production facility”) should be several degrees lower than the temperature of the rest of the body. That is why testicles are located in the scrotum, which has special mechanisms to ensure the cooler environment for the testicles.

The next scientific statistics says that raising the body temperature above 42 degrees Celsius initiates certain processes, resulting in cells disability. It is called Heat Shock Factor (HSF). Since the temperature of the testicles is always lower, it is 35 degrees Celsius that is enough to cause HSF and disable sperm cells. Consequently, heat contraception aims at increasing the temperature of the testicles up to 35 degrees Celsius and above, when the amount and motility of the viable spermatozoids decrease drastically.

Heat contraception techniques

After defining the aim of heat contraception the researchers faced another challenge: how to increase the temperature of the testicles. Well, here people demonstrated all their creative potential. Different techniques to raise testicles temperature evolved with the general development of technologies.

First it was Dr. Voegeli, who advised her male patients to take hot (about 46.7 degrees Celsius) bathes during 45 minutes daily for three weeks. This regimen, also known as the simple wet heating, was said to ensure up to 6 months of male infertility.

Later the so called suspensories were developed in the United States. The technique encouraged men to wear specific underwear (under-brief) that was designed in a special way to keep testicles close to the inguinal canal, thus the testicles were heated by the body itself. It is interesting to note that the suspensories were to be used during the waking hours in order to provide sufficient rate of contraception.

Finally, the ultrasound method of heat contraception was developed. Here the testicles are heated with the help of ultrasound. Though this approach has certain advantages (only two procedures 48 hours apart is enough to result in temporary infertility for up to 10 months), it has also a significant drawback (it is far from being easy to find a medical facility, where ultrasound is used for the reasons of contraception).

Success rates

Though there is definitely too little official data on the effectiveness of using heat as the method of male contraception, some figures do exist. For example, the trials, conducted in 1990s showed that the use of suspensories provided the decrease of average sperm count up to 3 million/ml. It’s quite a promising result, since infertility is usually diagnosed when the sperm count falls up to 10-20 million/ml mark or below.

Potential side effects and reversibility of heat contraception

One of the undeniable benefits of the heat method of contraception is its complete reversibility. It is said that a man can restore his ability to conceive a child in 2-6 months after discontinuing the use of the heat technique.

On the other hand, the modern science again lacks enough proven data to evaluate the safety issues of the heat contraception. Though those not numerous participants of Dr. Voegeli experiment did not report any changes in their libido, mental or physical condition, the question on the safety of heat contraception is still open.

It seems like the biggest concern arises when speaking about the long-term consequences of the heat method use on the health of future children. Since heat may disrupt the assembly of DNA in forming sperm, the scientists still cannot answer definitely whether there will be higher risks to experience birth defects or miscarriage for a woman, conceiving a child with a man, who used heat as the contraceptive method.

Male contraception

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Unanswered question

To heat or not to heat? That is the question, which still remains unanswered when speaking about the heat method of contraception. Though this technique is free, affordable, and completely reversible, it is still unstudied well enough to claim it effective and safe contraceptive for modern men.

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