This Morning: Dr Zoe discusses male contraception
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French men have developed an unusual DIY birth control method involving jockstraps to correct the imbalance in responsibility between men and women. More men are wearing the undergarment – usually used to guard male genitalia during sporting events – to warm their testicles. Doing so, they believe, creates enough warmth around the testicles to reduce sperm count, making pregnancy less likely.
Male biology keeps the testicles as an appendage to prevent interference from body heat, as sperm count drops if exposed to anything above the 35C internal temperature.
The average count ranges between 15 million and more than 200 million sperm per millilitre of semen.
Men with a count within this range are classed as fertile, while anything below is a “low count”.
Those with fewer than one million sperm per millilitre are technically infertile.
The jockstrap method, pioneered by inventor and doctor Roger Mieusset, brings the testicles closer to the body, increasing their temperature by two degrees and lowering the amount of sperm produced.
Proponents state that after wearing the undergarments for three months, 15 hours a day, a man becomes effectively sterile.
They add that the sperm count should return to normal after discontinuing use.
Mr Mieusset first developed a pair of “thermic pants” in the 1970s, but they have become most popular in recent years.
DIY jockstrap workshops have popped up across France in cities like Paris, Toulouse and Nantes, run by men like Erwan Taverne, 43.
Mr Taverne runs the Toulouse location and an organisation named Garcon, which researches contraception.
He explained the devices in an interview with the French publication Midi-Libre.
He said: “It’s basically a customised commercial pair of pants. You make an orifice in the front to allow the penis and scrotum through.
“The testicles don’t have room to pass, and so they go up into the entrance of the inguinal canals.”
He claimed the method is increasingly popular, used by approximately 5,000 and 10,000 French men.
The version pioneered by Mr Mieusset failed to take off after he struggled to secure the €900,000 he needed for trials.
He initially handed out limited prescriptions for his pants every year after testing them on a herd of rams.
They remain commercially unavailable as modern backers continue to struggle with French authorities.
Officials banned the sale of a version invented by a nurse last year after it failed to pass European safety tests.
A lack of available studies on the method behind the pants has seen doctors advise people not to regularly wear garments that heat the testicles for more than three years.
The vast majority of modern birth control methods exist for women, with temporary options including the pill, female condoms, caps, IUDs, vaginal rings and more.
Men only have condoms and vasectomies, with the latter invasive and permanent.
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