Contraceptive Technology Innovation

  • Blog post
    A woman and her infant in Mexico.

    A woman and her infant in Mexico. © 2000 Rick Maiman, Courtesy of Photoshare

    This “Why do we need contraceptive technology innovation?” blog series has showcased the critical need for new approaches in contraception development and some of the most exciting advances in process. We’ve highlighted upcoming technologies—from biodegradable implants, microneedle patches, and male contraceptives to vaginal rings, cervical mucus fortifiers, and mobile phone applications. We’ve explored innovations beyond technology, including the importance of placing the needs and preferences of end users at the forefront when starting any new product development and we’ve considered what it takes to scale up contraceptive access and actually get new technologies to end-users.

    But there is still so much work left to do.

  • Blog post
    why family planning

    Illustration: Emmanuel Nyakwada

    When it comes to female contraceptive products, innovation has been more evolutionary than revolutionary. With high unmet need still present, a huge opportunity exists to look at new ways to design products that respond to women’s needs and preferences, rather than forcing women to change their behaviors to suit existing products.

    Human-centered design (HCD, also known as “user-centered” design) is a creative, solutions-based approach to problem-solving that puts “users” (in our case, women) at the center of the product design process. Users are actively engaged at every step to ensure their needs and expectations inform the design. We do this by testing the validity of our assumptions with users themselves, in an iterative fashion. This also allows us to move beyond the existing conditions of “what is” to the forward-thinking potential of “what if?” with sensitivity and empathy.

  • Blog post
    Vaginal rings are a novel drug delivery platform unlike other forms of existing contraceptives.

    Vaginal rings are a novel drug delivery platform unlike other forms of existing contraceptives. Photo by James DeGroat, courtesy of the Population Council.

    Expanding contraceptive options for voluntary family planning is critical for three reasons. First, different people have different needs for pregnancy protection depending on their own individual and family situations. Further, a woman’s needs may change as she progresses through her reproductive life. With that in mind, family planning programs that focus on high-quality services and human rights should offer a wide range of contraceptive options to meet her needs, wherever she’s at in life.

  • Blog post
    Human sperm stained for semen quality testing in the clinical laboratory.

    Human sperm stained for semen quality testing in the clinical laboratory. Photo: Bobjgalindo. Via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

    The author wishes to thank Thomas Crouzier, group leader at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, for his contributions to this blog post.

    Over the past several decades, contraceptive innovation has mainly focused on advancing hormone-based technologies, which proven themselves to be highly effective at preventing pregnancy. However, their side effects are often cause for discontinuance.

    Concerns about hormonal contraception have been well documented by women living in the US and Europe. They are also being raised in low- and middle-income countries, where 26% of women who want to avoid pregnancy do not use hormonal contraceptives because of known or perceived side effects; another 24% opt out because they have infrequent sex and/or do not want a systemic solution.

  • Blog post
    A young woman in Taldi, Canning, India, educates village women about the benefits of having only a single child, and the necessity of family planning.

    A young woman in Taldi, Canning, India, educates village women about the benefits of having only a single child, and the necessity of family planning. © 2017 Nimai Chandra Ghosh, Courtesy of Photoshare

    Access to safe and effective methods of family planning is fundamental to health, education, economic opportunities, and empowerment. Access, however, must mean more than having products present on shelves (although it has to mean that too). To achieve what might be coined as “transformational access,” a level of sustainable access that truly meets the needs of women, we need products that are easier to use, readily fit with women’s lives and preferences, and don’t create their own barriers to continued use. Unfortunately, this is the challenge for millions of women globally who struggle with side effects associated with hormonal methods, particularly changes in menstrual bleeding patterns, which are strongly associated with method discontinuation. While these are among the most effective and safest pharmaceutical products that have ever been developed, they also present women with the regular decision to use a product that presents daily challenges in their life. For this reason, discovery of non-steroidal contraceptive drugs has long been something of a holy grail in contraceptive R&D.

  • Blog post
    Women receive contraceptive implants in the Sub-Karunrung District of Rappocini, Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.

    Women receive contraceptive implants in the Sub-Karunrung District of Rappocini, Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. © 2015 Ismail Amin, Courtesy of Photoshare

    Contraceptive implants have been available for over 30 years and are one of the most effective methods available. Until recently, however, international donors did not procure significant quantities, and use of the method in low- and middle-income countries was very low. This access barrier was largely due to the high cost of implant commodities. The situation mirrored the classic, paradoxical question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In this case, without lower commodity prices, procurements of implants would not increase in many international settings. But without higher volumes, manufacturers couldn’t lower their prices and still achieve a sustainable business model.

  • Blog post

    This piece originally appeared on the Initiative for Multipurpose Prevention Technologies (IMPT)'s blog.

    Incorporating what women want into new sexual and reproductive health products is essential

    Incorporating what women want into new sexual and reproductive health products is essential. Photo: PATH/Will Boase

    We at PATH make it our business to reflect on the elusive topic of "what women want"—in terms of protection options in their sexual and reproductive lives. Not surprisingly, the answer is complex. Women want and need different things at different stages of their lifecycle, depending on the circumstances of their lives.

    For decades, PATH has worked closely with women and girls in low-resource settings, as well as with diverse partner organizations, to develop, introduce, and scale up innovative technologies that improve women’s health. Our efforts include a strong focus on advancing women’s reproductive health literacy and decision-making autonomy not only as fundamental rights, but also as key building blocks to product uptake and effective use.

  • Blog post
    CycleBeads and mobile phone

    Two ways to use CycleBeads: the physical product and the app. Courtesy of Cycle Technologies, Inc.

    Millions of women in low- and middle-income countries have used evidence-based fertility awareness methods over the past several years. Most of them have used CycleBeads®, a low-cost, easy-to-use way for a woman to track her menstrual cycles and determine whether she is on a fertile day. CycleBeads are based on the Standard Days Method®, which has been proven over 95% effective in perfect use and 88% effective in typical use. It’s designed for women with cycles between 26-32 days long. CycleBeads has been widely successful because of its ease of use (it relies only on period tracking), lack of side effects, and its acceptability in a range of cultural contexts.

  • Blog post
    A provider at a health center in Senegal holds the injectable contraceptive, subcutaneous DMPA (DMPA-SC, brand name Sayana® Press).

    A provider at a health center in Senegal holds the injectable contraceptive, subcutaneous DMPA (DMPA-SC, brand name Sayana® Press). Subcutaneous DMPA is a lower-dose, all-in-one injectable contraceptive that is administered every three months under the skin into the fat rather than into the muscle. © 2016 PATH/Gabe Bienczycki, Courtesy of Photoshare

    In Senegal, the modern contraceptive prevalence rate (mCPR) doubled within a decade, rising from 10% in 2005 to 21.2% in 2015. This increase has placed Senegal at the forefront of the international family planning movement.

    The country has adopted a vision for family planning based on what’s knowns as the three Ds—democratization, decentralization, and demedicalization—and has set a very ambitious goal to reach 45% mCPR by 2020.

    One of the guiding principles of Senegal’s Ministry of Health and Social Action (MOHSA) is to ensure the availability of a wide range of contraceptive methods at all levels of health service. This involves introducing as many new high-quality contraceptive products as possible both in public health facilities and at the community level.

  • Blog post
    Un prestataire de soins au dispensaire au Sénégal tient le contraceptif injectable DMPA en sous-cutané

    Un prestataire de soins au dispensaire au Sénégal tient le contraceptif injectable DMPA en sous-cutané (DMPA-SC, de la marque Sayana® Press). Le DMPA sous-cutané est un contraceptif injectable à petite dose qu’on administre tous les trois mois sous la peau dans la graisse plutôt que le muscle. © 2016 PATH/Gabe Bienczycki, avec l'aimable autorisation de Photoshare

    De 2005 à 2015 au Sénégal, le taux de prévalence contraceptive est passé de 10% (EDS 2005) à 21,2% (FP2020). Une véritable révolution qui a placé le Senegal au-devant de la scène internationale.

    Le pays a adopté une vision pour la Planification Familiale : les 3 D (Démocratisation – Décentralisation - Démédicalisation) et s’est fixé un objectif ambitieux d’atteindre un taux de prévalence de 45% en 2020. Un bien grand défi !

    L’un des principes directeurs du Ministère de la santé et de l’Action Sociale est de garantir la disponibilité d’une gamme variée de méthodes contraceptives a tous les niveaux. Cela implique des efforts pour élargir la gamme disponible de méthodes contraceptives en introduisant autant que possible de nouveaux produits contraceptifs à la fois dans les points de prestations du public et au niveau communautaire.

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