Male contraception is being put to the test in Manchester and Edinburgh, where couples are being invited to take part in a ground-breaking international study trialling a new form of male contraception.

Manchester university has announced the launch of the new study into a male contraceptive gel alongside the University of Edinburgh, in which men will be asked to use a daily gel that suppresses sperm production as their sole method of birth control, as part of two-year study to 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. Men will apply the gel daily to their upper arms and shoulders and attend monthly clinics to monitor their sperm count.

Condoms and vasectomy are currently the only form of contraception available to men, however many women experience unacceptable side effects with their contraceptive method and so couples are looking for alternatives.

The international project is being funded by the US National Institute of Health, led by the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute and the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Professor Richard Anderson, of the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, said: “Previous trials have shown that hormonal contraception for men can be safe and effective. This trial allows men to self-administer a gel, which may be much more convenient and acceptable than needing repeated injections, as was the case with previous trials.”