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In clinical trials, a new male birth control gel seems to adequately reduce sperm count without decreasing libido — though, importantly, it remains to be seen whether it actually prevents pregnancy.

As NBC reports, the phase 2 trials of the new gel, which contains testosterone and a synthetic hormone called Nesterone that's already found in the Nuvaring vaginal birth control ring, will require committed monogamous couples to use the experimental treatment as their only contraceptive for a full year.

The trial's first phase found that the Nesterone/testosterone combo gel, which was applied once daily to the shoulder blades of 222 men between the ages of 18 and 50, was both safe and effective in reducing sperm counts to below one million per millimeter. While that number sounds high, it's significantly lower than the 15 to 200 million that the average man is rocking per millimeter of ejaculate, making it low enough, by medical standards, to be a viable candidate for contraception.

Conducted by the Population Council, a global non-governmental organization, and funded by the United Kingdom's National Institutes of Health, the reversible male birth control gel could obviously be a game-changer — and as study participants told NBC, its side effects seemed pretty minimal, too.

"It was basically like a hand sanitizer solution," explained 24-year-old trial participant Logan Whitehead. "Smelled like hand sanitizer, looked like hand sanitizer."

The California resident said that besides a bit of acne and weight gain — which could have come from switching to a job where he doesn't move around much — he experienced almost no side effects. Should the Food and Drug Administration approve the contraceptive gel after phase 2 trials, Whitehead said he planned to keep using it, especially given that his partner had struggled with side effects from female birth control options.

"The gel was such an easy process," he told NBC. "It was basically like taking the pill for the day."

While there's obviously still a ways to go before the Nesterone/testosterone gel hits pharmacies, those involved in bringing it to fruition are hopeful about its future, especially because as of now, the only truly effective male birth control options are vasectomies and condoms.

"We’ve been pushing for hormonal male contraceptives for 50 years," emphasized NIH contraception czar Daniel Johnston, "but there isn’t enough money available to really drive something through a very large phase 3 trial."

Should an option like this new gel get approval by the United States' FDA, Johnston and his colleagues are optimistic that more pharmaceutical companies will start actually putting money into more male birth control research.

"We’ve been chasing this for a long time," he said. "I hope we’re entering new territory."

More on men: Microplastics Found In Every Human Testicle

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