From tiny plastic hormonal implants, to the male pill; will the future contraceptives include a control app?
In the movie The Pill, Fred is desperate to make sure his one night stand, Mindy, takes the morning-after pill to avoid an unplanned pregnancy. To his surprise, he finds out that the medication’s instructions require a double dose to be taken in order to guarantee best results. He then sets himself on a mission to chase her down and convince her to take the second pill. This movie perfectly illustrates the inconveniences and difficulties that come with taking contraception. Imagine a scenario where you could just turn on and off your contraceptive with the help of control remote. It would be discrete to use, convenient, and available to us a few years from now.
According to the National Institute of Health, “63 percent of women in the reproductive age group are reported to be using contraception,” at the world wide level. Meaning, that there is a demand for convenient and more efficient alternatives of birth control. For these reasons, scientists are investing time into the possibility of creating tiny gadgets that, after being implanted in the body, can be either turned on or off with the help of a wireless device. It would be like switching from 4G to airplane-mode in your phone. But this idea from Microchips Biotech is still not available in the market yet. So far, the only thing closer to the chip is a a tiny rod called Nexplanon, which is inserted under the arm’s skin and releases hormones capable of thickening the mucus on the cervix so the sperm isn't able to pass through, and it decreases the ovaries' ability to release eggs. However, this plastic rod only lasts for four years and needs to be clinically removed to reverse its effects. On the other hand, the remote chip would last up to 16 years and it offers the commodity of turning it off with just a click.
The reason behind the awaited release of the novel products has to do with research and experimentations required before they hit the market. For example, hormonal contraceptives, like pills, can cause side effects on those who take them, like nausea, mood changes, and, in some unusual cases, strokes. Still, pills continue to be the most available option for the men and women who choose not to use a condom. And although these products are more associated with the female demographic, there is also an attempt to come up with the pill for men.
Other contraceptives you probably haven’t heard of and are already out there for sale in the market are vaginal rings, transdermal patches, and, for men, an injected gel that limits the sperm ability to travel (RISUG). Thus, if the chip enters the market in the next couple of years, what could be next? Well, one of the advantages that condoms have over oral and implanted contraceptives is their ability to avoid sexual transmitted inflections. It would be ideal for hormonal contraceptive to also be able to protect somebody from getting a disease.
Check out these other articles:
Images by Melissa Marshall