Non-Hormonal Birth Control: It’s About Health and EqualityBy Katie and Lisa
The first hormonal birth control pill was approved by the FDA in 1957 and was legalized as a form of contraceptive in 1960. Traditional hormonal birth control has evolved into a $5.4 billion dollar industry. Today, more than 9.7 million American women use the hormonal birth control pill; and for many of these women, it works great, without complication, and brings about a better quality of life -- for most, but not for all those who take it.
For years, many women have complained of serious side effects, such as mental health issues, weight gain, inflammation, and hypothyroidism. Yet, individual doctors and the medical establishment did not take these complaints seriously. Finally, science has caught up to the truth and admitted that hormonal birth control is not a “one size fits all” solution. Big Pharma is on the cusp of rolling out non-hormonal birth control solutions that represent the first significant changes in over 20 years.
Evofem’s Phexxi gel, a new FDA approved non-hormonal birth control gel, is the first of many changes to the industry that comes to market September 2020. This gel gives women the ability to use birth control when they want or need it, completely on their terms.
Similarly, powerhouse Bayer has partnered with Dare Bioscience to produce a non-hormonal birth control device, estimated to hit the market in 2023. The product was developed to provide more non-hormonal options and address the demands of younger generations for more choices.
And soon there may be even more solutions. Together with the Ford Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded and publicized Accelerating Discovery for Non-Hormonal Contraceptive, a Grand Challenge that ran earlier this year. The Challenge notes that “While current contraceptive methods for women include exceptionally safe and effective options, not all methods are suitable for or acceptable to all women at all stages of their reproductive lives, and concerns about undesirable side effects remain a significant barrier to greater uptake and continued use of existing methods.” The goal is not just to improve tolerability among users in the Western world, but to provide options (emphasis on options – as in, many different possibilities) in low-resource areas to reduce maternal, infant, and childhood mortality, and expand economic opportunities for women.
Birth control, in general, has had many positive effects on our country since the 70’s – more women graduating universities, fewer unwanted pregnancies, and overall reproductive freedom. And, even in a wealthy, ‘first world’ nation like America, there are still stark racial disparities in maternal and infant mortality, so having more choice for birth control options is a boon for public health, as well as women’s equality. Hopefully, our country can help fulfill this promise by ensuring that any woman who wants to avail herself of these options will be able to do so – safely, legally, and affordably.