There’s A Birth Control Pill You Only Have To Take Once A Month—What’s The Deal With It?

It’s annoying to have to remember to take your birth control pill at the same time every day so that you don’t accidentally sabotage its effects. Fortunately, that might soon be a thing of the past, thanks to researchers from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology who are working on an exciting contraceptive pill that you only take once a month. Here’s how it works and what you need to know about it.

  1. It’s taken by mouth, just like any other pill. Although you might’ve assumed birth control pills you only take once a month would probably require painful injections at your doctor’s office, that’s not the case. These pills are gelatine capsules that get swallowed like regular birth control pills.
  2. There’s one major difference. These pills are designed to enter your stomach where they take on a star-shaped structure. The “arms” of the star unfold one by one when they’re in your stomach over the course of a month, releasing hormones to keep pregnancy at bay. They don’t get digested quickly like regular birth control pills because they’re larger pills that can’t move through the stomach.
  3. They stay in your stomach for three weeks. This ensures that they give your body a slow release of hormones to prevent you from getting pregnant that month. Once the three weeks are up, these pills will be broken down by the body and you’ll excrete the remains.
  4. What have the trials have shown so far? The drug has been tested on pigs. When X-rays were conducted on the animals, it was found that the star-shaped structures in their stomachs mainly remained intact for 30 days after the pills were consumed. However, two of the “arms” detached. Is this a problem? No, because it shows how the star shape of the structure breaks down slowly over time, although it will be interesting to see how these drugs fare when tested on humans.
  5. It aims to decrease your stress. Sometimes conventional birth control methods leave a lot to be desired. They can be stressful to deal with, especially if you have to take pills every day. If it happens that you forget to take them, you’re riddled with guilt and fear that you’re pregnant. Ugh. This once-a-month pill is a game-changer.
  6. Many women forget to take contraceptives. This technology comes at the perfect time because we need more contraceptive options at our disposal. This is especially the case if you consider that almost half of women on the daily oral contraceptive pill miss a minimum of one dose over three-month periods. That’s quite a lot if you think about it!
  7. How long do we have to wait? Unfortunately, the birth control pills still have a long way to go before they’ll arrive on the market. They’ve only been tested on pigs, so it will be a while before they are approved for use by people. In fact, human trials for this drug will only happen in 2021.
  8. Will it have side effects? Forgetting to take your contraceptive pill aside, sometimes what happens is that you hate the side effects you have to deal with when taking birth control pills, like nausea and some weird birth control symptoms that you don’t need in your life. But will the monthly contraceptive pill avoid those? Apparently not – it seems that there still will be side effects to deal with as it still releases hormones into our bodies. However, we don’t know if these symptoms will be lessened or not.
  9. Will it be an OTC drug? You want to have more control over your birth control, not just with how you take it but how you actually get your hands on it. Imagine if you could simply get your birth control over the counter. That would be amazing. But if you’re hoping for that with the monthly contraceptive pill, don’t hold your breath. It’s still not clear if you would have to visit your local clinic to get it when it does become commercially available. All remains to be seen, but it’s still exciting to think of the birth control options that will be coming our way in the near future.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.