The Pill – New research introduces monthly contraception and tests it in pigs

Researchers estimate that with normal use, 9% of women in the United States who take the pill as a birth control become pregnant each year. So, a person must take an oral contraceptive every day, and preferably at the same time of day, for the drug to work. However, it can be difficult to keep this rhythm regularly. The form of contraception can also become less attractive. A new study in Science Translational Medicine presents a new alternative: a birth control pill that the woman only has to take once a month.

The pill once a month?

daily use of birth control pills to prevent getting pregnant

Unwanted pregnancy can be a life-changing experience for anyone. In developing countries and elsewhere, this can prevent women from facing financial difficulties or dropping out of education. The monthly pill releases the common contraceptive levonorgestrel. This takes place over a period of 4 weeks, explain the researchers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) now reports that 214 million women of childbearing age who want to prevent pregnancy are not using modern methods of contraception. Some believe that part of the problem is the inconvenience of daily oral contraceptives. So the authors of the new study hope that a monthly pill may prove to be more attractive.

the pill star-shaped dose once a month new study research pregnancy

"Developing a monthly version of a contraceptive could have a huge impact on global health. The impact that oral contraceptives can have on human health and gender equality cannot be overstated. " This is what co-author Ameya Kirtane, Ph.D., of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge says.

Birth control pills may not be the only type of medication the new system can deliver. Co-senior author Prof. Robert Langer, also from MIT, adds: "We are confident that this work – to our knowledge the first example of a month-long pill or capsule – will one day lead to potentially new modalities and options for women’s health, as well as other indications. "

This is how the star-shaped birth control pill works

taking birth control pills once a month in the stomach

The monthly birth control pill has six rigid arms, each of which contains several doses of levonorgestrel. The arms are made of carefully selected polymer materials that take about 4 weeks to break down in the presence of stomach acid. The polymer arms gradually release the contraceptive into the stomach and bloodstream as the month progresses.

There is a rubbery hub in the middle of the pill. Thus, the star-shaped structure coated with gelatin can be folded and put into a swallowable capsule. When stomach acid dissolves the gelatin, the star unfolds to a size that allows it to stay in the stomach without getting into the digestive system until it has released its medicine. Researchers continue to experiment with conditions that cause the arms to break off, including changes in pH or temperature and exposure to certain chemicals.

Contraceptive in a star shape for one month take levonorgestrel

Scientists have already tested the pill on pigs and found encouraging results. The authors report that the contraceptive was released at a constant rate over approximately 28 days. The amount of the drug found in pigs’ bloodstreams is about the same as a human taking levonorgestrel every day. While the level of the drug from one daily tablet dropped over 24 hours, the level produced by the new pill remained constant for almost a month. You can find out more about the study here.