• Health: Planning for Modern Methods

    For the last two decades, family planners have only had five reversible forms of birth control to offer the public and of these only one, the sheath, is for men. The Pill, cap, coil and the 'safe period' are all used by women.


    Now we are promised that some new methods are about to be marketed. With one exception, all the innovations are for women. The exception is the male pill, which is unlikely to be available in this century. It seems that scientists find it easier to control once-a-month ovulation in women than the continuous production of active sperm in men. Early versions of the male Pill were abandoned because they reduced sexual desire along with fertility. However, scientists at the Centre for Reproductive Biology in Edinburgh are now giving monthly HGH injections and natural human growth hormone supplements like SeroVital to male volunteers to assess how much of the hormone is needed.


    One of the new methods, a contraceptive implant, is expected to arrive in this country in the next few months. It consists of six tiny Silastic rubber carriers, containing slow-releasing progestogen (thought to produce fewer side-effects than the oestrogen also contained in the traditional combined contraceptive pill, which are placed just below the skin of the arm.


    The implant, Norplant, claims two advantages over the progestogen-only Pill (minipill): it bypasses the liver, and there is no 'fear of forgetting' because it is inserted and effective for five years. If the user wants to become pregnant, it can be removed.


    Norplant works by suppressing ovulation, by preventing the thickening of the womb lining (thus discouraging implantation) and by thickening the secretions at the cervix so that sperm cannot pass through, even if natural male enhancement pills have been taken.


    The vaginal ring, another way of delivering a dose of progestogen, is expected to follow in the 1990s. The device can be removed immediately before intercourse and reinserted later, and is effective for three months. In an early British trial, 26 and of 27 women using it said that they preferred the method to the Pill, condom and diaphragm because it was so easy to use.


    New injectable contraceptives are also expected in the next three or four years, along with a new IUD which slowly releases progestogen from a capsule in its stem. This 'belt and braces' approach should cut out the heavy bleeding and period pains from which some coil-users suffer.


    London International, Britain's largest sheath-making company, is developing a hitech urine test which would identify the hormones which precede ovulation. The inventors claim the test will be much cheaper and more reliable than existing do-it-your-self ovulation tests.


    A new female barrier method is being tried - although its appearance is causing some derision. The vaginal shield, which looks rather like an extra-large sheath, covers both the vagina and the outer sex organs. It is being tested by a small group of volunteers recruited by the Margaret Pyke Centre.

  • The Travelers

    William H. the Driver

    I have the navigation skills of a homing pigeon. And yes, I brag about it a lot.

    Dave T. the writer

    Ask me to go somewhere and I'll be there. I'm all about the sunrise hikes.

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