Contraceptive Technology Innovation

  • Contraceptive Technology Innovation

    Julia Bunting

    Population Council | President

    Laneta Dorflinger, PhD

    FHI 360 | Distinguished Scientist and Director, Contraceptive Technology Innovation
    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.

  • Contraceptive Technology Innovation

    Babitha George

    Quicksand | Partner

    Anna Lawton

    FHI 360 | Cultural Analyst/Ethnographer
    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.

  • Contraceptive Technology Innovation

    Saumya RamaRao

    Population Council | Senior Associate

    Loreley Villamide-Herrera

    Population Council | Biomedical Program Manager
    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.

  • Contraceptive Technology Innovation

    Frederik Petursson Madsen

    Circle Biomedical | CEO
    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.

  • Contraceptive Technology Innovation

    Stephen Ward, Ph.D.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation | Program Officer, Discovery & Translational Sciences (Global Health Program)
    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.