A Tiny Contraceptive Patch Could Mean The End Of The Pill For Good

The thumb-sized patch -- which could provide up to six months of contraception -- has the potential to revolutionise the concept of birth control as we know it.

Ladies, forget The Pill. Heck, in fact, forget IUDs, implants and injections.

Imagine sticking a small, band-aid-like patch on your skin for a few seconds and voila -- you're covered contraception-wise for half a year.

It sounds like a sci-fi film, right? Well, it might become a reality as researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology in the US have developed microneedle skin patch technology that has the potential to do just that.

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Image: Christopher Moore, Georgia Institute of Technology.

The concept was originally developed as a way of giving vaccines sans needle -- and pain -- in places with limited access to health care.

It involves pressing a thumb-sized patch onto skin for about five seconds. Don't freak out as there are needles involved -- but these are microscopic. They're so tiny they only pierce the upper layer of the skin -- and no one involved in testing them complained about pain.

The teeny needles break off and remain under the skin, where biodegradable polymers -- the same stuff used in dissolvable stitches -- slowly release the contraceptive drug levonorgestrel over time.

The future is ... soon

Scientists are keen to develop a patch that could provide enough contraception for as long as six months. A five-second 'prick' for half a year of worry-free frolicking? Sounds pretty good.

The painless patch is designed to be applied by the person themselves -- not a healthcare professional -- making it the first ever self-administered, long-acting contraceptive that does not involve a conventional needle injection.

This could come as a godsend for many women who have to schlep back and forth to their doc every few months to get a contraceptive injected or a device removed and/or implanted.

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They're not the only ones who stand to benefit -- women who take the oral contraceptive pill know how annoying it is to have to remember to take it every gosh darn day and at the exact same time too. Vomiting, diarrhoea and even some medicines can reduce The Pill's effectiveness, which is also a pain.

It's not yet known when the patch will get the official go-ahead -- they're still in the testing phase -- or how much they will cost but it's thought that they'll be inexpensive enough for use in developing countries where women have limited access to healthcare.

It should be noted that the patch -- and all other contraceptive methods mentioned here -- do not protect from sexually transmitted infections.

Feature image: Getty.