Contraceptive Choice: Having Some Options is Good, but Having More Options is Better


It’s no secret that there are a wealth of contraceptive methods that exist today, including methods like the birth control pill, the hormonal or non-hormonal IUD, the implant, the patch, and many more! Still, there are people around the world whose contraception needs are simply not being met. Julia Bunting with the Population Council sits down with us to discuss the need to continue the development of innovative contraceptive methods, and how her organization is leading the charge.

The Population Council has been a leading developer of contraceptive methods for more than sixty years, and Population Council’s scientists developed what we now know as long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) in the 1950s. LARCs include methods like IUDs (Paraguard and Mirena) and the implant (Jadelle and Norplant). It is estimated that today, more than 170 million women in the world, which is between 20-25% of all women, are using modern methods of contraceptives, many of which are developed by the Population Council.

Different women need different contraception methods at different points, seeing as many women use contraceptives for up to thirty years of their lives. While there may be a slew of options to choose from, there are new methods of contraception (with added health benefits and fewer side effects) that are emerging to meet those needs. The newest FDA-approved vaginal ring, Annovera, provides a full year of protection against unintended pregnancy but can be inserted and removed by someone on their own. Unlike other vaginal rings, Annovera does not require refrigeration and can be used by women around the world, including rural settings. Annovera will hopefully be available to women in the United States by the end of this year, or early next year.

There have been whispers about male contraceptive methods for years, but no actual results. Preventing the production of one egg versus billions of sperm creates a biological challenge, societal roadblocks that prevent the welcoming of men adopting a contraceptive method creates a social challenge, and the enormous amount of time it takes to actually develop the method itself creates a logistical challenge. There are also very few people that are interested in investing in male contraceptive methods. Unfortunately, a lack of male contraceptive methods can undermine the idea that men also want to make choices about and have control over their sexual and reproductive lives and futures.

In the U.S. and around the world, reproductive health and rights, including access to contraception, is under attack. The development of contraception methods is a long game, and has taken place over constantly shifting political and funding environments. Population Council continues to develop contraceptive methods and listen to the needs and wants of people around the world when it comes to contraception.

Photo by Population Council

Links from this episode

Population Council
Population Council on Facebook
Population Council on Twitter 
Annovera FDA Press Release

Take Action!