Story behind the birth control pill "calendar" dispenser


In 1961, new parents David and Doris Wagner had a baby and Doris went on the birth control pill, just approved by the FDA the year before. Quickly though, Doris and David realized that it was too easy to forget a day and not realize it, so they invented a calendar dispenser that was the basis for the compact-shaped dial packs still common today. Read the rest

What's new in birth control for dudes

The hunt for an effective, reversible, and socially acceptable male birth control continues. The newest target: The smooth muscle that makes up the tubes connecting the testes to the urethra. This needs to contract in order for sperm to reach their final destination. Now, scientists have shown that you can make mice sterile by eliminating their ability to contract that muscle. The result: A mouse with a dry ejaculation but which is still "pelvis thrusting with appropriate vigor and frequency".

This is a long way from becoming reversible treatment for human gentlemen, though. Right now, probably the most promising male birth control is RISUG, in which a clear polymer gel is injected into the vas deferens. The gel doesn't block the tube up completely, but it does seem to prevent sperm from successfully reaching the urethra and being capable of fertilizing an egg. RISUG is in Phase III clinical trials in India, but, even then, there are still safety questions about it and, so far, it's only been proven to be reversible in tests on non-human primates.

Image: Some rights reserved by Iqbal Osman1

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Birth control comes with a weight limit

The average American woman weighs 166 pounds. New data suggests that the Plan B morning-after pill is less effective if you weigh more that 165 pounds, and won't work at all for women who weigh more than 175. What's more, writes Kate Clancy (an anthropologist who studies women's reproductive issues), the dosages for regular old daily birth control are set for average-to-low-weight women. If your BMI is over 25, the pill won't work as well for you. Read the rest

The social science of IUDs

IUDs are the weird form of birth control. We don't really know exactly how they work, for instance. And they've been largely unpopular my entire lifetime—really, ever since a couple of poorly designed IUDs set off a mini-panic in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But IUDs are effective birth control. The ones that you can buy today are safe. And, more importantly, they represent birth control that you don't have to think about, and birth control that is really hard to get wrong.

If you've ever done research on the effectiveness of various methods of birth control, you'll notice that the statistics usually come with a little asterisk. That * represents a concept that few of the people who rely on birth control ever think about—perfect use. Let's use condoms as an example. With perfect use, 2 out of 100 women will get pregnant over the course of a year's worth of condom-protected sex. Without perfect use—maybe you don't use a condom every time, maybe you don't put it on right when you both get naked—the number of accidental pregnancies jumps to 18 out of 100. The same basic problem affects birth control pills, as well. Ladies, did you know you're supposed to take those things at the same time of day every day? That's the kind of use error that can make a difference between 1 out of 100 women getting pregnant in a year, and 9 out of 100 getting pregnant.

In contrast, IUDs represent a fit-it-and-forget-it method of birth control. Read the rest

Publicly funded birth control saves public money

A public investment of $235 million in helping the poorest women in America access birth control would save the public $1.32 billion, according to the Brookings Institution. Read the rest

Birth control is safer than pregnancy: Day 1 at AAAS 2012

It's that time again. Maggie is back at the largest science convention in the Western Hemisphere for four days of wall-to-wall awesomeness. Each day, she'll tell you about some of the cool things she learned watching scientists from all over the world talk about their work. Check the bottom of each post to find links to earlier posts in this series!

Each year, the American Association for the Advancement of Science holds a conference. Scientists from every discipline you can think of attend. They come from all over the world bearing fascinating studies they're dying to talk about, and Power Point presentations they'd probably rather I didn't critique. The result: The worst part about this conference (besides the aforementioned poorly done Power Points) is trying to choose which session you want to see. There's often as many as a dozen occupying the same time slot. Usually, three or four of those will strike me as something I MUST find out more about.

Friday morning, I picked a session that I hoped would provide some background and context on issues you and I are already talking about. Birth control—and, specifically, who should have access to it—has become a major issue in the current presidential campaign. Along with that has come a lot of confusion and misinformation about how birth control works, how effective it is, and what we know about its potential side effects. My first session of the day: Fifty Years of the Pill: Risk Reduction and Discovery of Benefits Beyond Contraception. Read the rest

TOM THE DANCING BUG: God-Man, in "The Seeds of Discontent!"

God-Man Commandeth that you visit the TOM THE DANCING BUG WEBSITE, and that you do Follow RUBEN BOLLING on TWITTER. Read the rest

IUDs may offer cancer protection

Really interesting new study of 20,000 women suggests that the use of IUDs might reduce the risk of both major types of cervical cancer, even in women who contracted cancer-causing HPV. The researchers speculate that the IUD's presence—it is, after all, a foreign object in your lady bits—may serve to stimulate immune responses that fight off HPV infection early and prevent it from progressing to cancer. This needs follow up. But it's intriguing. (Via Colleen McCaffery) Read the rest