contracptivesA US start-up has come up with a new implantable contraceptive – a wireless, remote-controlled chip that can be turned on and off at the push of a button – which can last for 16 years. The new birth control drug delivery system developed by Massachusetts-based MicroCHIPS can be remotely turned on or off. The device will begin pre-clinical testing in 2015 and if successful, it will be on the market by 2018. According to MIT Technology Review, the device would be more convenient for many women because, unlike existing contraceptive implants, it can be deactivated without a trip to the clinic and an outpatient procedure, and it would last nearly half their reproductive life.

The device measures 20 x 20 x 7 millimetres, and it is designed to be implanted under the skin of the buttocks, upper arm, or abdomen. It works by dispensing 30 micro-grammes a day of levonorgestrel, a hormone already used in several kinds of contraceptives. Sixteen years’ worth of the hormone fits in tiny reservoirs on a microchip 1.5 centimetres wide inside the device. MicroCHIPS invented a hermetic titanium and platinum seal on the reservoirs containing the levonorgestrel. Passing an electric current through the seal from an internal battery melts it temporarily, allowing a small dose of the hormone to diffuse out each day.

“The idea of using a thin membrane like an electric fuse was the most challenging and the most creative problem we had to solve,” MicroCHIPS president Robert Farra said. In case a woman wishes to conceive, she can simply turn off the implant with a remote control; another click of the remote restarts it, the report said. After 16 years, the implant could be removed. Doctors could also adjust dosages remotely. Currently, no hormonal birth control lasts over five years.

Know your contraception methods:

Barrier birth control – condoms and diaphragms

Condoms are without a doubt one of the greatest inventions of mankind. Not only are they the most cost-effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancies but they also stop the transmission of various STDs including the dreaded HIV/AIDS. When used properly, condoms have a 98% success rate!  (How not to use a male condom) Nowadays, female condoms are also widely used. Much like their male counterparts, they work on the same barrier principle as male ones. And they’re believed to be more pleasurable as well, though costlier.

Diaphragms work on the same barrier principle as condoms and need to be inserted into the vagina at the mouth of the cervix (the opening to the uterus, based at the highest point of the vagina). Remember, that it’s a very small opening so there’s no fear of the diaphragm going into the uterus. (Read: Condoms: Frequently Asked Questions)

Pros and cons: They are easily available, inexpensive and work effectively when used properly. The con is that there’s a certain stigma attached to buying them in many countries (including ours) and might be overlooked in the heat of the moment. The availability of the right size can also be a problem. Some also live under the impression that they decrease pleasure and aren’t as good as the real thing.

Birth control pill

Birth control or oral contraceptive pills is a reliable method of contraception and works by suppressing ovulation – the release of an egg from the ovary. Contraceptive pills are classified depending on their composition. In India, there are two types of pills available. 

Combined pills: Contains a combination of oestrogen and progestin. These are the synthetic form of the same hormones present in the female body. These pills are also useful in reducing the intensity of menstrual discomfort. Another type of pill available is the Mini Pill. They contain only progesterone, they are milder in action and have lesser side-effects. If used correctly and consistently, the pill is projected to be about 99.7 to 99.9 % effective in preventing pregnancy. The failure rate of hormonal methods of contraception, including the pill is usually lower than non-hormonal methods such as condoms and intrauterine devices.

Pros and cons: When taken correctly, regular and emergency pills work most of the time. However, they can also cause problems and it’s believed they can cause weight gain, decrease libido and cause other problems since they alter a woman’s hormonal levels. It’s also important to remember that unlike the barrier method, pills do not prevent the transmission of HIV and other STDs. (Read: Prescription Birth Control – The Pill)

Behavioural birth control

Behavioural birth control is an umbrella term for various practices which we perform to prevent pregnancies. It includes the withdrawal method, fertility awareness and complete methods.

The withdrawal method refers to the man ‘withdrawing’ when he is about to ejaculate. This method is quite unreliable. 4% of accidental births occur because of failure of this method. The fertility awareness method refers to the woman keeping a close track on her ovulation time and avoiding sexual contact during those days. The third method is of course complete abstinence.

Pros and cons: Behavioural methods of birth control might be free of cost, but they are extremely hard to practise and have the highest fail rate of all contraceptives. It’s extremely hard to keep a track of the so-called ‘safe days’ because many women have irregular periods. 

Now that you know about the various contraception methods and their pros and cons, choose the one that best suits you and your partner. Remember, it is better to be safe than sorry!

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With inputs from PTI

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