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Birth control contraceptive patch
via Singlecare

A contraceptive patch that lasts six months is being developed

The self–applied patch could one day replace the pill

A contraceptive patch that takes seconds to apply and lasts six months could be the future of female contraception.

Currently being developed by scientists in the US, the self–applied patch uses levonorgestrel which is the synthetic form of progesterone already used in the morning after pill. According to the study originally published in the Nature Biomedical Engineering journal, the patch works by releasing the levonorgestrel into the skin via microscopic, biodegradable needles. 

The needles, that are made from the same material as dissolvable stitches, break off and remain under the surface of the skin. The biodegradable polymers release the contraceptive drug slowly over time. This technology marks a real breakthrough, as current contraceptive patches run the risk of falling off and becoming inneffective.

Lead author Dr Mark Prausnitz, of Georgia Tech in Atlanta told the Independent: “Our goal is for women to be able to self–administer long–acting contraceptives with the microneedle patch that would be applied to the skin for five seconds just once a month.” The groundbreaking patch would be the first long-acting contraceptive that doesn’t require an injection from a doctor or health professional.

The patch was originally designed for use in areas of the world with limited access to healthcare, but the hope is that ultimately it will be made available to the wider population as a new family planning alternative.

Don’t get too excited though... so far the patch has only been tested on mice, which means there is still a long way to go before it becomes available to the public. Prausnitz was quick to clarify that more clinical trials are needed to determine the effect of the contraceptive microneedle on other subjects: “We do not yet know how the contraceptive microneedle patches would work in humans”.

Although it might take some time, the news still marks an exciting advancement in women’s health and body autonomy. 

At the end of 2018, news emerged that the FDA had cleared the use of Annovera, a silicone ring that you insert into the vagina that is lined with hormones to prevent you from ovulating. It would provide birth control for a year. Controversies have been in and out of the news over the testing of a male pill. Trials were halted because of side effects, including depression and mood swings, acne, libido changes. One man died by suicide during the study, although researches claim this was unrelated to the drug, however, another man also attempted suicide. There are reportedly a whole host of other methods being tested, including an under-the-skin implant for males, a pill that impairs sperm’s ability to swim, and a product named Depo-Provera that you would be able to inject yourself with at home.