Ever since humans learned that A + B = baby, we’ve been trying to understand that equation better. Not only that — we’ve been trying to find ways to defy it. Enter contraceptives. We all know them; most of us have used them.
The World Health Organization reported in 2019 that 842 million women in the reproductive age group are using contraceptive methods. Meanwhile, 270 million have an unmet need for contraception. Birth control pills and condoms have been among some of the most popular and effective methods of contraception for years. They are not, however, the right solution for everyone.
Fortunately, innovations are happening in the industry. Here are six innovations in birth control to look out for over the next several years.
1. Online birth control
Women who aren’t using contraceptives usually have a good reason why. Perhaps they’re trying to conceive, or contraception is incompatible with their religious beliefs. Many times, however, women don’t use birth control because they don’t have quick, easy, and affordable access to it.
These women may not have time to visit a doctor, pick up a prescription, etc. Or they may lack insurance that will cover the cost. For those who want birth control but can’t invest the time to go to the doctor, exciting innovations are right around the corner. These will make accessing birth control easier than ever before.
Several companies already offer birth control online, and this approach will only become more common in the future. Whether you have been on birth control for years or are just starting out, you can access affordable medical consultations online. With an online prescription, you can then get birth control sent right to your door.
2. The ‘once-a-month’ pill
Do you often forget to take your birth control pill? Or maybe you just hate the fact that you have to remember to take a pill every single day? Get ready for the once-a-month pill.
In late 2019, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reported that researchers were developing an oral contraceptive that has to be taken just once a month. Not only can this prevent unplanned pregnancies from occurring due to a forgotten pill, it’s also a lot easier for the woman.
The capsule remains in the stomach after being swallowed and gradually releases the drug. Animal testing has shown the new pill can achieve the same medication concentration in the bloodstream as a daily dose provides.
Traditional oral contraceptives are only effective if taken every day. With the once-a-month pill, you could take it once and ignore contraception for weeks at a stretch.
3. Contraception-focused apps
Expect contraception-focused smartphone apps to evolve over the next several years. While we’ve already seen a rise in the popularity of fertility-tracking apps, the algorithms are only going to get smarter.
Most current apps have the ability to track fertility signs over time based on data entered by the user. The Natural Cycles app, however, is the first app-based contraceptive method to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Created in Stockholm by a husband-and-wife duo, the app uses an algorithm that tracks body temperature and period cycle information. This information is used to determine which days users can have sex without getting pregnant.
While other apps help track menstrual cycles and calculate ovulation windows, none has received the same level of approval as Natural Cycles. The company’s goal is to eventually be certified as a medical device in every country.
4. User-controlled contraceptives
From the pill to the ring to the patch, your gynecologist can offer you many different birth control options nowadays. In the future, be prepared to hear about even more.
Today, a new form of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) is being developed based on research done at MIT. Lexington, Massachusetts-based startup MicroCHIPS has created a user-controlled microchip that can be implanted beneath the skin to deliver drugs, including birth control. This LARC solution is designed to last for years, and the user can activate — or deactivate — the implant wirelessly on demand. This approach promises you the benefits of long-term contraception with the flexibility of short-term methods.
5. Male contraceptives
One revolutionary type of birth control that has everyone’s attention is male birth control — specifically, reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance (RISUG). The commercial name for this contraceptive is Vasalgel. This form of birth control is 100% effective, available at a low cost, and easily reversible. If desired, however, it can last for 10 to 15 years.
Here’s how it works. The patient receives a shot of polymer into the vas deferens, the tube that carries sperm from the testes to the urethra. In one 15-minute procedure, this shot creates a semi-solid plug that partially obstructs the tube, blocking and filtering out sperm.
Male birth control is appealing because it removes the burden from women of taking care of contraception prior to sex. This contraceptive method has yet to hit the market, but once it does, it will be a powerful form of birth control.
6. Female condoms
Internal or “female” condoms are now being marketed in the U.S. after rule changes by the FDA. Unlike traditional “male” condoms, internal condoms can be worn up to eight hours before use. If used correctly, they are 95% effective in preventing pregnancy.
Because internal condoms are made without latex, these can be a good option for people with a latex allergy. They can be also used during a woman’s menstrual cycle. As internal condoms become more widely available, this female-controlled method of contraception is likely to grow in popularity over the next few years.
For several decades now, the human race has been hard at work trying to discover the best methods of contraception. Pregnancy is a wonderful thing for some, but it’s definitely not the end goal — or current desire — for everyone. As time goes on, birth control is getting more advanced. Over the next several years, expect to see contraceptive innovations that will make birth control less of a hassle.