There is already a significant number of forms of birth control available to the public today, however many of them – if any at all – don’t come with ease. Now, thanks to a new research team based at the Georgia Institute of Technology, a new form of easily accessible (and applicable) form of birth control has been invented, and this time it’s a long-acting birth control patch.
How is it so easy? Well, individuals can simply press the patch into their arm or leg for five seconds to get a full month’s dose of birth control within seconds, according to NBC News report. The researchers said they hope their work leads to a lower-cost, more accessible contraceptive option in the future, says NBC News.
So, how does it work? Well, the birth control patch uses microscopic needles that break off and then remain under the surface of your skin, according to the media release. The microscopic needles then slowly biodegrade and release the hormone levonorgestrel throughout the month, according to the media release. However, because the word “needles” is involved, the team has noticed that the patch has had some-what of a anxiety-inducing effect, although it’s actually the same technology the Georgia Institute of Technology researchers used to develop a flu vaccine patch back in 2017, according to NBC News. During clinical trials, people who tried the micro needle flu patch said it was easy to use and completely painless, says NBC News.
According to the researchers, most long-acting birth control methods are more reliable than the pill or condom, but they require administration by a health professional, says CBS News. That can limit patient access to contraceptives, CBS News reports. “Our goal is for women to be able to self-administer long-acting contraceptives with the micro needle patch that would be applied for five seconds just once a month,” Mark Prausnitz, a professor in the bioengineering program at Georgia Institute of Technology and one of the researchers helping lead the effort, said in a statement to CBS.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (also known as ACOG) named unplanned pregnancy a “major public health problem” in the United States back in 2015, stating that around 50 percent of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. The ACOG says oral birth control and condoms have a high failure rate, in part because people don’t typically use them as they’re designed to be used or directed, which is essentially why the ACOG recommends long-acting birth control methods like IUDs and implants as oppose to other forms of birth control, meaning that users don’t have to worry about remembering to take a pill or put on a condom. Although according to the University of Wisconsin, which supports the researchers’ assertions that IUDs and implants can be expensive, you will have to see a doctor to have one inserted or implanted.
While it’s likely that it will still going to be quite some time before you see a birth control patch on the market and accessible by the general public, according to the news release, the team at Georgia Tech has only tested the long-acting birth control patch on rats and will need to further test them on humans before launching them into the public.
“We do not yet know how the contraceptive micro needle patches would work in humans,” Mark Prausnitz, a Regents Professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the paper’s corresponding author, said in the news release. “Because we are using a well-established . contraceptive hormone, we are optimistic that the patch will be an effective contraceptive,” he continued.