Birth control innovations: The future of contraception and fertility management

Image credit

Birth control innovations: The future of contraception and fertility management

Birth control innovations: The future of contraception and fertility management

Subheading text
Innovative methods of contraception may provide more options for managing fertility.
    • Author:
    • Author name
      Quantumrun Foresight
    • January 23, 2022

    Birth control technologies offer the potential to improve contraception while also delivering significant health benefits. New contraceptive options may fulfill couples' evolving contraceptive needs at various stages of their reproductive lives.

    Birth control context

    Birth control methods have evolved significantly since the first contraceptive pill; it contained 150 micrograms of artificial estrogen and was approved for sale in 1960. However, traditional, female birth control options have since been challenged to evolve. Increased awareness of side effects, how these drugs affect a woman's health, and general dissatisfaction with the lack of innovation in contraception has resulted in a substantial demand for a broader range of products that allow women to better choose their preferred options. It has also become apparent that new non-hormonal contraceptive technologies with efficacy comparable to the pill—but without the hormone-related adverse effects—could disrupt the market and induce a paradigm shift in contraception. 

    For example, Phexxi is an acid-based vaginal gel that is being developed at Evofem Biosciences in San Diego. Phexxi's viscous gel works by temporarily raising the pH level of the vagina to create an acidic environment that kills sperm. In clinical trials, the gel was 86 percent effective at preventing pregnancy throughout seven menstrual cycles. When the gel was used as envisaged, within an hour before each act of intercourse, its efficacy rose to above 90 percent.

    The Ovaprene vaginal ring, developed by Daré Bioscience in San Diego, and a combined oral contraceptive pill called Estelle, from biotech company Mithra Pharmaceuticals, provide an alternative to hormonal ingredients that can produce adverse side effects. Although clinical trials are still being conducted, post-coital statistics show that women who used Ovaprene had over 95% fewer sperm in their cervical mucus than those who did not use the device. 

    Men currently have few alternatives when it comes to contraception. Vasectomy is thought to be permanent, and condoms can sometimes fail even when used as directed. While women may have greater options, several techniques are often discontinued because of adverse side effects. Vasalgel, a reversible, long-acting, non-hormonal male contraception, was developed with the help of the Parsemus Foundation. The gel is injected into the vas deferens and prevents sperm from leaving the body. 

    Disruptive impact

    Optimal sexual health may necessitate a positive and respectful approach towards sex and sexuality and the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences. New contraceptive approaches may affect sexual health in a variety of ways, including higher acceptability and usage (more users), enhanced safety (fewer side effects) and efficacy (fewer pregnancies), and increased compliance (producing longer durations of use).

    New contraceptive technologies can assist couples in meeting their changing contraceptive needs at various stages of their reproductive lives. An increase in the total number and variety of contraceptive choices available may aid in ensuring a better, healthier match of techniques to users. Furthermore, societal requirements vary over time, and new approaches may assist societies in addressing major social issues and attitudes around intercourse.

    Contraception may also have an indirect effect on sexual experience. When there is a chance of pregnancy, many women lose their arousal, especially if their partners are not committed to pregnancy prevention. However, many men are similarly put off by pregnancy risk. Feeling more protected from pregnancy may lead to less sexual inhibition. Women who feel well-protected against pregnancy may be better able to "let go" and enjoy sex, explaining increases in libido. 

    The significant protection provided by effective contraception may result in increased sexual confidence and disinhibition. Reliable contraception may enable women to invest in their human capital with far less risk, allowing them to pursue opportunities for self-development. Separating sex from procreation and allowing women more autonomy over their bodies has also removed the pressure to marry at an early age. 

    Couples and singles now have more choice and are less constrained by planning and scheduling due to these new birth control methods. New contraceptive technology may also benefit not just millions of women, but men too, who may live with spouses, female friends, and colleagues that are more satisfied with themselves as they realize their potential and have more freedom of choice.

    Implications birth control innovations

    Wider population-scale implications of improved contraception may include:

    • Better family planning (which is linked to improved birth outcomes for babies, either directly or through healthy maternal behaviors during pregnancy.) 
    • A reduction of the economic and emotional burden of parenthood.
    • A decrease in pregnancy-related morbidity and mortality.
    • Lower risk of developing certain reproductive cancers.
    • More control over the timing and duration of menstrual periods.
    • The promotion of gender equality by improving the accessibility of education, employment, and health care to women.
    • Greater gender equality by improving the variety and efficacy of male-centered contraceptive options.

    Questions to comment on

    • Do you think that improved contraception methods and innovations could possibly lead to accelerated depopulation?
    • Considering that contraception makes it easier for people to have sex outside of traditional marriage, do you think that attitudes toward sex will evolve in the developing world in the same they have in the developed world?

    Insight references

    The following popular and institutional links were referenced for this insight: