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Image / Editorial

Birth Control Goes Digital


by Jeanne Sutton
10th Jul 2014
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Woman on Phone

Don’t want to be a mother right now? The new contraceptive chip deals with baby business for up to sixteen years…

The pill, the bar, following the patterns of the moon, IUDs, pulling out, collecting trolleys of condoms on special offer. Choosing a contraceptive method that works for you can be a confusing and time consuming business. That’s being a woman for you, nothing but inputting reminders on your phone and a parade of doctor appointments. However, reproductive health innovation is a-happening and it may now be possible to keep the stork away for up to sixteen years, and all at the flip of the switch.

The contraception chip is the latest digital disruption to women’s health and here’s all you need to know about the next gen implant.

  • The chip is the product of a company in MIT called MicroCHIPS and was prompted by a Bill Gates visit to the campus where he asked if it would be possible for a woman to switch her birth control on and off.
  • The chip measures 20mm x 20mm x 7mm and the hormone levonorgestral, which prevents pregnancy, is stored within the device.
  • A small dose of the hormone is released daily via a small electric charge that melts the seal around the hormone and releases it into the bloodstream. You trigger this charge with a wireless remote control held near the skin, how very Halt and Catch Fire.
  • You ‘store? the device in upper arm, abdomen or buttocks – yes buttocks – and it lasts up to sixteen years. The longest lasting birth controls currently on the market are IUDs that can be effective for five years. The chip can also be deactivated for months or years at a time.
  • Tests have been favourable but the biggest concerns at the moment revolve around security of the device and protecting it against hacking. MicroCHIPS are currently exploring encryption options and looking to implement a larger study group.
  • As well as being a possible boon for women looking for a long term contraceptive solution the device is also a pioneer in drug delivery with scientists looking to remote control delivery to possibly treat other conditions.

What say you – would you trust a computer chip with your family planning? Is sixteen years too long to store a contraceptive device? Should we be intimately embracing this new digital age and enrolling in the trials? What happens when we lose the remote control?

Jeanne Sutton @jeannedesutun

Image courtesy of Getty’s Lean In Collection.