Contraceptives, for tired parents and unshackled bachelors, have emerged as an immediate fix to reach a child-free state of nirvana. From colored condoms to IUDs, there are many birth control methods available for sexually-active individuals who want to avoid pregnancy. However, not all of them score high on popularity charts- mainly because they decrease or interrupt sexual enjoyment. Scientists continue to research better and easier methods of birth control, here is a sneak peek into the future of contraceptives:
10. Next-Generation Diaphragms
A diaphragm is soft dome that can be inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix before intercourse. A one-size-fits-all BufferGel Duet diaphragm is being developed for better protection against pregnancy. The polyurethane dome is filled with BufferGel that acts both as a spermicide and microbicide. Clinical trials are also underway for a SILCS diaphragm that is a silicone barrier contraceptive.
9. Dissolvable Contraceptive Implants
Implants are the newest entrants into the female contraceptive market. These small rods, once inserted under the skin, release a progestin hormone over a couple of years. The hormone stops fertilization by thickening cervical mucus and preventing ovulation. The implant can be removed when women opt out of birth control. Scientists are developing future implants that would not require a surgical removal. Biodegradable implants like Capnor that dissolve after a certain period of time will soon hit the shelves of pharmacies world over.
8. Heat Based Contraception
This is not going to sound pretty. Scientists are finding new ways to heat up men’s testicles. The knowledge about effects of heat on sperm production has existed since ancient times. New thermal-based birth control methods are being tested in various countries. Hot packs, pads and ultrasounds are being tested for their safety and efficacy. Some scientists are developing special “suspensory briefs” to achieve artificial cryptorchidism. Concerns over risk of cancer and infections are some obstacles that have come in the way of making a successful heat based male contraceptive.
7. Vas-based Contraceptives
It seems that sperm have become the martyrs for a glorious future of contraceptives. They are now being attacked at vas deferens (the route used to transport sperm from the testes to the penis). While a vasectomy cuts off the vas deferens, future vas-based contraceptive methods do only a temporary job. One such procedure undergoing clinical trials is RISUG or Reversible Inhibition of Sperm under Guidance. The method involves a polymer that, when put into the vas, kills the sperm. Men can get the polymer flushed out after they decide to stop using birth control. (Image: Male Contraception Information Project)
6. Contraceptives Vaccines
Efforts are being made to develop a miracle shot that will prevent pregnancy. The vaccine would select certain targets in human reproductive system that are open to interference with antibodies. The basic targets have been FSH hormone in men and HcG in women. The vaccines are supposed to wear off in a year. So far, CV has not emerged as a stable and effective method for birth control. Scientists are also wary of potential side effects like auto-immune diseases and allergies.
5. Dry Orgasm Pills
Doctors at Kings College, London have found that certain medications for blood pressure have contraceptive effects. They clamp the muscle contractions required to move sperms through male reproductive system. Men taking these sperm can have orgasms without releasing any sperm. In the long term, these medicines cause infertility. Research is being done to develop a pill that will start acting within 3 hours of ingestion and wear off gradually after that.
4. Contraceptive Sprays
Knowing about human fascination with sprays, it’s not surprising that researchers are developing contraceptive squirt bottles. The spray, laced with a type of progestogen, is applied daily on the forearm where it passes on to the bloodstream. The idea is to offer women a convenient option with smaller doses of contraceptive drugs. The clinical trials have shown that sprays, unlike pills, have decreased side effects like breast tenderness, blood clots and water retention.
3. Career Pill
Dr. Roger Gosden, an American scientist, is developing an oral contraceptive for women that can put pregnancy on hold to help them pursue their careers. Birth control pills usually stop ripening of the eggs. The “career pill’ does not prevent the ripening process but simply delays ovulation. The research, still in an experimental stage, promises a breakthrough like no other contraceptive. It has given new hope to ambitious career women who are also under the pressure of a ticking biological clock.
2. Gene Blockers
Normal contraceptives that rely on hormonal control have side effects like nausea or headaches. Research is underway to find non-hormonal and reversible birth control options. A study done in Harvard Medical School has discovered a gene called CatSper that affects sperm mobility and fertilization. A contraceptive that acts a CatSper blocker could prove effective for birth control. Other research done at the same medical school identified a protein-producing gene that makes the sperm bind to the egg. A genetic contraceptive is being developed based on RNA interference that will silence genes like these to prevent fertilization.
1.The Male Pill
A pill that can control the massive sperm army unleashed by men has existed as a feasible birth control option for many decades. Yet, the development of the male pill has still been painfully slow. Scientists initially had to fight the idea that men would never use a hormonal pill. There has been a gradual shift; maybe celeb paternity suits brought a change in perspective. Male hormonal contraceptive is finally ready and being tested in the US, Europe and China. This birth control method uses testosterone, and sometimes progesterone, to stop sperm production. The reversible hormonal male contraceptive would also be available as patches, gels, implants and even injections.
by Mankani Deepa