Scots couples are being invited to test a new form of male contraception that involves smothering their arms and shoulders in gel.

The ground-breaking international study, which will involve men in Edinburgh,
will require them to use a daily gel that suppresses sperm production as their sole method of birth control.

The two-year study will assess whether the gel is effective in preventing pregnancy and whether this method is acceptable to couples.

The gel, called NES/T, is a hormone-based treatment that is designed to reduce sperm production without affecting libido.

The clinical trial needs men aged between 18 and 50, who are in a stable relationship with a woman aged between 18 and 34.

As part of the two-year trial, men will be asked to apply the gel on a daily basis and attend monthly clinics to monitor their sperm count.

The aim of the gel is to reduce a man’s sperm count to zero, or as close to zero as possible, for it to work as a contraceptive. 

Once this goal is achieved, the gel would be used as the sole method of birth control for couples over a 12-month-period to assess whether it is effective in preventing pregnancy.

Richard Anderson, professor of clinical reproductive science at the University of Edinburgh who is leading the trial in Edinburgh, said: “I think it’s going to be a really interesting study. The thing that’s novel is that men can do this for themselves at home and do not have to go to a clinic as was the case with previous trials.”

Mr Anderson said: “It allows a couple to have a discussion about sharing the load. It’s obviously women who have to go through a pregnancy. When you have been carrying the lion’s share of responsibility for family planning for years, it’s only natural you want to share the burden.

“If men want to be involved in family planning, there are only condoms and vasectomies available. Condoms have a high failure rate, while vasectomy is a permanent method.”

The Edinburgh study is currently looking for 40 couples who are in “a stable relationship” to take part. Mr Anderson said that risks of the trial were low, and included pregnancy, but he said that “no form of contraception comes with a guarantee. There’s always a small risk.”

He added: “In previous trials when men have had big doses of hormones being injected, they have found men have had minor mood effects. This is something women go through all the time. Women often have effects on their moods, even depression. Sometimes it affects their interest in sex, and sometimes they can experience blood clots. Obviously, this study has been tested on men in the past and looks promising.”