Contraceptive Earrings

Imagine a world where your jewellery could double-up as your birth control. Well it seems that’s the world we’re heading towards. Scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a method of distributing contraception through jewellery. By placing a small patch - much like a nicotine patch - on the back of earrings and watches, it is suggested that women will be able to regulate their birth control through simply wearing their jewellery.

This innovative method aims to make birth control regulation less invasive to a woman’s day-to-day life. Mark Prausnitz, professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, suggests that "because putting on jewellery may already be part of a woman's daily routine, this technique may facilitate compliance with the drug regimen." He adds that this new method may be “empowering” to women in preventing unplanned pregnancies.

Whilst this brief has not yet been tested on humans, the trials have been promising. Contraceptive ‘earrings’ were places on the ears of pigs, and taken off after 16 hours to simulate a woman removing her jewellery before bed. The results show a necessary amount of hormones were distributed whilst wearing the earrings to cover the period where the jewellery was removed.

So why is this new method of birth control being developed? Researchers at the institute suggest that "the more contraceptive options that are available, the more likely it is that the needs of individual women can be met”. Despite the various methods of contraception available to women, many girls and women are at risk of facing an unwanted pregnancy. From uncomfortable side effects to lack of availability, there are many factors which make the current choice of contraceptives either undesirable or unattainable to many.

This study was initially conducted to aid the accessibility of birth control for women in developing countries. This perhaps seems quite surprising - if women in such locations are unable to gain access to contraception how are they expected to gain access to luxury items such as jewellery. However, looking at the science and design behind this method, it may be more effective than at first glance.

Firstly, this form of contraception utilises transdermal patch technology in the same way a nicotine patch or motion sickness aid functions. Contraceptive patches are already available to women, however by combining this method of birth control with jewellery, the practice of taking contraceptives becomes more integrated with a woman’s daily routine. The contraception is not in the form of jewellery, but rather comes as a patch in universally wearable designs, such as the back of an earring.

Women in developing countries with limited access to healthcare do not have the option of long-acting contraceptives such as implants and IUDs. These patches will offer a way of regulating their birth control in a easy and reliable method. When discussing the functionality of contraceptive jewellery, Professor Prausnitz comments, "we are taking this established technology, making the patch smaller and using jewellery to help apply it.” He adds that this method will be “appealing and helpful" to women all over the world.

Though contraceptive jewellery remains in its initial stage of development, this method provides a positive and progressive vision for female birth control. The study aims to provide women with more options when it comes to regulating their bodies - a factor alone that deserves praise. As women are given more possibilities, choices and options when it comes to contraception, traumas such as unexpected pregnancies, potentially distressing contraceptive experiences, and simply lack of availability of birth control can be avoided.