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What forms of birth control are currently available?
Simple sexual abstinence has always been an effective method of birth control, while coitus interruptus (the withdrawal method) and fertility awareness methods have been much less effective. Male condoms have been used for centuries, and have the added benefit of preventing sexually transmitted diseases. Other barrier methods now available include diaphragms, cervical caps, contraceptive sponges and female condoms.
Intra-uterine devices (IUDs) prevent fertilization and uterine implantation of a fertilized egg. Introduced in the early 1920s, they have become a safe and reliable form of birth control for millions of women. In the United States. There are two types of IUDs available: the Mirena®, which continuously releases hormones for up to five years, and the ParaGard Copper T 380A IUD, which can be worn for up to ten or twelve years. IUD’s are effective as soon as they are inserted. They do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
In 1962, the first hormonal contraception was licensed. Known simply as ‘the pill’, these combination pills of progesterone and estrogen that prevent ovulation are over 99% effective when taken as directed. Progesterone-only pills, nicknamed ‘mini-pills’, are also available, as are extended-cycle combination pills such as Seasonique®. Currently, over 100 million women worldwide rely on oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) as their form of birth control. Baptist Health Center for Clinical Research has contributed to the testing and development of more than a dozen of today’s most utilized brands of birth control pills.
Since the development of the hormonal implant product Norplant® in the early 1990’s, many new delivery systems of hormonal therapies have been devised. Current hormonal therapies range from implants (Implanon®), to long-acting injections (Depo-Provera®, Lunelle®), to hormonal patches (Ortho-Evra®), to vaginal contraceptive rings (NuvaRing®). Baptist Health Center for Clinical Research conducted a study of the once-monthly injection Lunelle® and performed some of the early clinical testing of the Ortho-Evra® hormonal patches that have become a convenient and popular form of birth control.
What types of studies are being conducted on birth control methods?
Medical researchers are creating new oral contraceptives that provide greatly flexibility of dosing. Pills that extend the interval between menstrual cycles are being developed, as are pills with lower hormone dosages. There is research being conducted to look at the secondary benefits of OCPs, such as decreased symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) or decreased facial acne. At Baptist Health Center for Clinical Research, we have been conducting a number of studies on extended-cycle birth control pills, and we expect to be involved in studies exploring the full gamut of hormonal delivery systems such as pill, patch, implant, injection or vaginal ring.