Contraceptive Technology Innovation

  • Blog post
    Caya is “one size fits most,” eliminating the need for a visit to a health facility.

    The Caya diaphragm is “one size fits most,” eliminating the need for a visit to a health facility. Photo: (c)PSI/Alexandra Angel

    This piece was originally published on PSI's blog, Impact.

    “How can I, as a medical professional, speak with confidence to clients if I am scared of the product myself?”

    In Niamey, Niger, on the edge of the Sahara Desert, a room of community health workers hushed as Mariam* began her story.

    “So, I decided to try it last night!”

  • Blog post

    This piece was originally published by PSI's blog, Impact.

    PSI product registration

    Ensuring access to a broad range of methods is a critical component of meeting women's family planning needs. ©PSI/Conner Varin

    New contraceptive products have the potential to help women and girls plan the families and lives they desire. Among the 214 million women in developing countries with an unmet need for family planning, many cite method-related reasons for not using contraception. Some women want methods with different side effects, or no side effects at all. Others need discreet methods, or methods they can use while breastfeeding. Ensuring that women have access to a broad range of methods is one critical component of meeting their contraceptive needs. In almost all cases, local registration of contraceptive products is a prerequisite for access.

  • Blog post

    This post originally appeared on the PSI Impact blog.

    EECO female condom marketing

    © PSI/Gareth Bentley

    Gloria dreams of a contraceptive and HIV prevention method that she can control. As a university student in Zambia, Gloria goes on dates in between working and studying. Some of the men have potential. She could imagine marrying one of them and having children together someday. Gloria relies on her partners to use male condoms—but sometimes they don’t, leaving her frustrated and scared.

  • Blog post
    EECO female condom shopkeeper

    PSI/Gareth Bentley

    This post originally appeared on the PSI Impact blog.

    Clara took a chance and bought 15 units of Whisper, a new female condom, to sell in her small shop in the fast-growing city of Mzuzu, Malawi. She was willing to test demand for the product in hopes of helping women in her community while also boosting her business.

    “I became a single mother myself before I was ready to have a child,” Clara explains. “I wish there were more options for women to protect themselves.”

    Clara learned about the Whisper Woman’s Condom from Kitty, a medical detailer who visited the shop. Kitty described how the product was different from earlier generations of the female condom, with new features designed to make it easy and comfortable to use. Female condoms like Whisper are the only woman-controlled method that provides triple protection against unintended pregnancy, HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

  • 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.

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