Currently, contraceptive rings like the NuvaRing offer women monthly protection against pregnancy. Every month, a woman inserts the ring – which releases low, continuous doses of the hormones estrogen and progestin – into her vagina. Before her period, she takes out the ring; afterwards, she replaces it with a fresh one.
The Population Council – a nonprofit that conducts biomedical and public health research – recently finished two Phase 3 clinical trials on a new contraceptive that is effective for one year of use.
But the ring isn’t just long lasting; it confers other benefits as well. This ring doesn’t need to be refrigerated, unlike its counterparts – meaning it’s ideal for women who might not have constant access to electricity, says Diana Blithe, program director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Contraceptive Discovery and Development program, which helps fund the project.
If approved by regulatory authorities, this contraceptive ring will be the first long-lasting, reversible contraceptive that’s completely under a woman’s control.The story discusses other contraceptive innovations in the works, including improved condoms for females, so that they don't have to rely on a male partner. As I read the story, I could only think of the difference that careful use of contraception can make in people's lives. In many ways, that is the sub-text (at least in my mind) of the new book by Robert Putnam--Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis--which was reviewed in this week's Economist:
Among the educated elite the traditional family is thriving: fewer than 10% of births to female college graduates are outside marriage—a figure that is barely higher than it was in 1970. In 2007 among women with just a high-school education, by contrast, 65% of births were non-marital. Race makes a difference: only 2% of births to white college graduates are out-of-wedlock, compared with 80% among African-Americans with no more than a high-school education, but neither of these figures has changed much since the 1970s. However, the non-marital birth proportion among high-school-educated whites has quadrupled, to 50%, and the same figure for college-educated blacks has fallen by a third, to 25%. Thus the class divide is growing even as the racial gap is shrinking.These differences in outcomes do not happen by chance. It is the choices that people make about the timing of children that drives the future success of those children. Contraceptives are key to all of this.