Birth Control’s New Frontier: Remote Controlled Contraception

by Emma Tilden

The pill.  IUDs.  Spermicides.  Diaphragms.  There are many, many forms of contraception.  And, let’s be honest, they can be a total pain. 

Lucky for us, even the current anti-contraceptive political climate hasn’t stopped researchers from continuing to pursue an effective, easy, and worry-free form of birth control.  MicroCHIPS is working to develop a contraceptive chip which can be activated, deactivated, and reactivated using a remote.  The wireless chip, measuring 20 x 20 x 7 millimeters, is implanted under the patient’s skin and daily releases 30 micrograms of levonorgestrel, a hormone which is already used in several FDA approved contraceptives.  The chip, though miniscule, contains 16 years’ worth of the hormone, which means there’s no extensive (read: expensive) upkeep, and it can be turned on and off with the simple click of a remote control—without a trip to the doctor.  At the moment, no form of hormonal birth control lasts for more than five years, so this is a big deal.  Afraid the hormone levels won’t be right?  Doctors can also adjust the amount of hormone released remotely!  After 16 years, the chip is removed. 

The device isn’t ready to be released yet: it will begin pre-clinical testing in the U.S. next year and will be on the market (hopefully) by 2018.  It has also not yet been submitted to or approved by the FDA.  MicroCHIPS says that its researchers still have to test for safety, efficacy, and security before those steps can be taken.  One important development that still needs to be made is the encryption of the chips in order to ensure that their wireless data remains private and secure. 

An international coalition made up of national governments, philanthropic organizations, and nonprofits  (including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) have joined together to make a commitment to providing this new and efficient birth control to 120 million women in need by 2020. 

It’s so reasssuring that, in spite of a political climate that is so hostile to birth control, people are still working to provide women with the help they need to make their own choices about their bodies.  

Images courtesy of,, and  

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