Contraceptive Earrings Could Make Birth Control Simpler -- And More Stylish
Imagine if preventing unwanted pregnancy was as easy as putting on a pair of earrings?
Well, that might just become the case thanks to scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology in the US.
They've developed adhesive patches that can be applied to the part of the earring that comes into contact with the ear.
Upon contact, the patch releases a contraceptive hormone that's absorbed into the body via the skin.
The earrings would be removed at night and the contraceptive patch would need to be changed periodically, probably about once a week.
No human testing has been done yet but scientists say there's a possibility the patch could be added to watches, rings or necklaces too.
So, why jewellery?
Putting on jewellery is already part of many women's daily routines so the thinking is a two-birds-one-stone approach -- pop on a pair of earrings or a watch when you wake up and ~boom~ you're also covered contraception-wise.
Plus it can be jewellery that women already own, meaning they can wear what they like in terms of style and size -- as long as the patch is able to make contact with their skin, of course.
It's also more discreet, and so may be suitable for women in situations where they have less control over their reproductive rights.
"This technique could more effectively empower some women to prevent unintended pregnancies," Dr Mark Prausnitz from the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology said.
Unpacking the patch
The contraceptive jewellery concept comes off the back of earlier research by the team at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Back in January, they unveiled a small, band-aid-like patch that could provide up to six months of contraception and with the potential to replace traditional birth control methods such as The Pill, IUDs, implants and injections.
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 to allow microscopic needles to pierce the upper layer of the skin.
The tiny 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 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.
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: Mark Prausnitz, Georgia Tech.