Researchers at MircroCHIP Inc. are developing a new implantable contraceptive device that can be controlled wirelessly, Time reported.
The wireless device is only 20 millimeters long and would lie under the skin in the buttocks, upper arm or abdomen. It would work by slowly releasing the hormone levonorgestrel, which is also used in some types of birth control pills, hormonal IUDs and in the emergency contraceptive Plan B.
Designed to last up to 16 years, the device also allows women to “deactivate” their birth control without a trip to the doctor, benefitting women who have difficulty accessing health care – such as those in the developing world.
Comparatively, current contraceptive implants, which are inserted into the arm and release the hormone progestin, only last between three to five years, while the non-hormonal copper intrauterine device (IUD) lasts 12 years.
Development for the device is being backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The product is currently being tested for safety, efficacy and security, and MicroCHIPS hopes to introduce it to the U.S. in 2018, following approval from the Food and Drug Administration.