Pin It
Once-a-month contraceptive pill
Photography Thought Catalog, via Unsplash

What you need to know about the once-a-month contraceptive pill

Though it’s in its very early stages, scientists are developing a longer lasting birth control pill that will slowly release hormones to prevent pregnancy

With women bearing the brunt of the responsibility when it comes to birth control, and current methods coming with countless side effects – AKA fucked-up mental health – it’s encouraging to know that new research is emerging regularly.

Recent developments include a year-long silicone ring, a potential male contraceptive pill and gel, a six-month patch, and contraceptive jewellery. Now, scientists have developed a once-a-month pill which slowly releases hormones over 29 days.

Though the pill is still in its very early stages, the news will be welcomed by women who struggle to remember their birth control pill every day, and those who are sick and tired of paying £26 for the morning after pill.

While we still wonder where TF the male pill is, here’s everything you need to know about the proposed monthly birth control.

THE PILL STAYS IN YOUR STOMACH FOR WEEKS

Researchers developed a capsule for women to swallow, which will dissolve when it hits the stomach. A six-sided star structure will unravel and gradually release the hormone levonorgestrel – a synthetic progestogen commonly used in the pill – and is designed to be wider than the opening between the stomach and small intestine, meaning it will stay in your stomach for four weeks. The structure will continue to release levonorgestrel to prevent pregnancy until it has been fully absorbed.

IT MIGHT BE MORE EFFECTIVE THAN THE CURRENT PILL

The study’s authors explain that “the effectiveness of oral contraception is compromised because of a lack of patient adherence”, revealing that almost 50 per cent of women miss at least one dose of the daily pill every three months. Unlike the traditional pill, which needs to be taken every day in order to remain effective, the newly-designed contraceptive leaves less room for error.

When testing the pill on pigs, researchers compared the level of hormones released to the levels shown with the daily pill. The team found that the monthly birth control showed a slower and more prolonged release of levonorgestrel, with pigs showing the same levels of hormones on day 21 as the daily showed on day one. Even when the structure began to break up in the stomach, hormone levels remained consistent.

THERE COULD BE SIDE EFFECTS

We all know that the current pill isn’t without its side effects, namely: mood swings, breakouts, and a general destruction of your mental health (cool!). So it’s likely the once-a-month pill will also come with similar side effects. Researchers still need to establish whether the structure can release enough hormones to prevent pregnancy, but not so much as to cause unwanted side effects, including sickness, dizziness, and breast pain.

TESTING IS STILL ONGOING

Scientists have currently only tested on pigs, with human tests not yet on the horizon. Questions still unanswered are: will the star-shaped structure be safe enough to live in a woman’s stomach for weeks? And, will the amount of hormones released actually be enough to prevent pregnancy? Though we may not have the answers for a while, it’s definitely an exciting prospect, likely to reduce the amount of unwanted pregnancies and broaden women’s choice when it comes to contraception.