Researchers are developing contraceptive jewelry – why this is not a good idea

A team of researchers is developing a hormonal contraceptive for women that can be worn as jewelry – it should be “appealing” and “discreet”. But this approach is going in the wrong direction. A comment.

Swallow pills, insert rings, put condoms on – contraception can be so annoying! But there is a new light on the hormone horizon: "Family planning for women could one day be as easy as putting on an earring," promises. The scientists are currently working on a contraceptive that no longer looks like a drug, but comes as a chic lifestyle accessory.

A contraceptive patch – small and chic

They presented their novelty in the specialist magazine "": a transdermal patch with the hormone levonorgestrel, which is already contained in birth control pills, hormone coils or the "morning-after pill". Contraceptive plasters are also available, of course, but they are much larger and as striking as a normal plaster. Here, on the other hand, the hormone is hidden in various pieces of jewelry: in the back of an earring, a ring or even a watch.

Possible designs of contraceptive jewelry. (Photo: © Mark Prausnitz, Georgia Tech)

Skin contact means that the hormones are absorbed into the body – the patch should probably have to be changed once a week. The scientists have not yet tested this on humans, so far only on pig ears and on the skin of hairless rats. The safety and effectiveness must now be proven in further tests. The researchers also want to find out “whether the concept is appealing to women from different cultures”.

Contraceptive jewelry was originally designed for women in developing countries with poor medical care. There it could actually be a useful, because easily accessible, option of contraception. But now the scientists want to make the product attractive to other target groups as well.

The downside is the same as with the birth control pill

And they are optimistic: "The more contraceptive options are available, the more likely it is that the needs of individual women will be met," says Professor Mark Prausnitz, who was involved in the development. “Because putting on jewelry for a woman may already be part of the daily routine, this technique could make it easier for her to keep to regular use. This technique could effectively empower some women to prevent unwanted pregnancies. "

An empowerment that unfortunately unfortunately has the same downside as the birth control pill for decades: It does allow women to take contraception into their own hands. But it also brings with it the responsibility of having to do it – since apart from condoms (and vasectomies) there are as yet no methods available that make men responsible.

Instead of inventing what feels like a hundredth product for female hormonal contraception, it might make more sense to research an active ingredient for men – indeed, and the pill for men could be on the market in about ten years. This would ensure more justice because both partners could freely decide who would do the contraception – if they decided against the condom. In addition, the pill would have fewer side effects for men at the current level. So why take beaten paths again??

The last thing we need is a hormonal contraceptive

In addition, the price of power for women is damn high: hormonal contraceptives are very safe and uncomplicated, and therefore widely used. But they mean a radical intervention in the hormone balance and involve a potpourri of risks – from physical complaints such as headaches, chest complaints or vaginal yeast infections to psychological problems such as a reduced libido and depression. In addition, the hormone residues in the water pollute our environment.

Even if baby-free bling bling would probably get by with a comparatively low dosage, the last thing we need is a method that makes hormonal contraception “even more appealing” for women (as the researchers put it). On the contrary, we should ensure that hormone-free contraception – such as condoms or natural family planning – is more appealing to everyone. This includes sufficient information so that everyone can choose the best one from the various options.

Contraceptive jewelry trivializes the use of a drug

The majority currently choose hormonal contraceptives anyway. The fact that the inhibition threshold can now be made even lower by putting it in a pretty piece of jewelry sends a problematic signal. If Professor Prausnitz sells it as an "advantage" that "a woman can get these medicated earring backs and then combine them with different earrings that she wants to wear," it plays down the use – and makes the potential wearers possible less sensitive to the risks.

The announcement that one wants to enable a "more discreet" form of contraception is also questionable. Because it resonates: “A plaster is ugly – stay attractive to your spouse and wear an ear plug instead!” Apart from the fact that there are also a lot of women who don’t wear jewelry and therefore fall out of the grid: we don’t do contraception better if we make them invisible. Especially not within a partnership, where both should deal with the topic openly and responsibly. A birth control pill is not a smartie and a contraceptive patch is not an accessory – even if it disguises itself well.

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