The future of hormonal contraception

International journal of fertility, 1991


Well over 100,000,000 women have used the combined oral contraceptive (OC) pill. As a result of the population explosion in the 1970s and 1980s, there will be almost one third more women in fertile age in the year 2000 than in 1991. In the developing world outside China, the total number of contraceptive users could double in roughly 10 years. China, the total number of contraceptive users could double in roughly 10 years. The pill has a low failure rate, but one study in Egypt found that 90% of women made errors in moving from one packet to the next. Similarly, a 60% error rate was found among users in Colombia.

The vaginal ring delivers combined progestogen and estrogen through a silastic wall. The device can be left in place for 21 days out of 28, and such delivery would virtually eliminate the low risk of hepatocellular carcinoma among OC users. A vaginal progestogen ring is being tested. Over 700,000 women have used Norplant, the subdermal implant method with an effectiveness rate of 99%.

Depo-provera and norethindrone enanthate injections last 2 to 3 months. The Progestasert IUD, containing 38 mg progesterone released at a rate of 65 mcg per day, is effective.

Progesterone-releasing IUDs lasting from 3 to 5 years could complement subdermal implants.

Ethinyl estradiol (205 mg) and diethylstilbestrol (25-50 mg) have both been used as postcoital agents taken within 36 hours for 5 consecutive days after unprotected intercourse. In more than 3000 cases there were 17 pregnancies (.05%). These regimens are replaced by giving combined oral contraceptive tables (e.g., .25 mg d-norgestrel and 50 mg ethinyl estradiol), taken 2 at a time and repeated 12 hours later, within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. Epidemiological studies have confirmed that the use of the combined oral contraceptive for 3 to 5 years halves a woman’s risk of ovarian or endometrial cancer, and the protection persists for 10 to 18 years after cessation of use.


  • The future of hormonal contraception, International journal of fertility, NCBI PubMed PMID: 1687405, 1991.
  • Image credit Alec Favale.

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