Previous male contraceptives were vasectomies or condoms, both unpopular choices for many men, so women were the ones who dealt with birth control, often taking the pill.
"We have a number of irons in the fire," Diana L. Blithe, program director for contraceptive development for the Washington-based National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in a New York Times report Sunday. "I think men actually do want to do this."
Some research projects are investigating ways to lower the male sperm count.
Seattle resident Steve Owens volunteered to test those methods and said it lowered his sperm count so much "I was not viably able to produce a child."
However, when Owens stopped participating between tests, his sperm count went back up and he fathered a child.
An October conference sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will let researchers present their findings.
"Male contraception is a critical area," said Jenny Sorensen, a foundation spokeswoman. "It doesn't make sense to not include everyone in the discussion."
The most studied approach in the United States uses testosterone and progestin hormones, which signal the body to stop producing sperm, the Times said.
Another approach is a birth control pill that works for men.
A product called gamendazole, derived from an anti-cancer drug, prevents sperm cells from maturing, so you're "making nonfunctional sperm," said Gregory S. Kopf, associate vice chancellor for research administration at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Lawrence, Kan.