Stanford researchers and their colleagues have tested a new contraceptive device that they say could provide broader access to long-acting contraception in developing countries.
In the past 10 years, the percentage of women who use intrauterine devices in the United States has leapt from less than 1 percent to nearly 20 percent. But at the international level, those figures are much lower.
Paul Blumenthal, MD, MPH, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the School of Medicine, focuses much of his work on family planning in developing countries, many of which do not have broad access to long-acting contraception. Blumenthals latest paper, published in collaboration with Population Services International, describes the implementation of a new device used to insert IUDs in women immediately after they give birth, and he hopes it will help health care professionals in developing countries provide broader access to long-acting contraceptives.
The idea behind Blumenthals postpartum IUD inserter, which comes with the IUD packaged inside it, is to simplify and streamline the process of providing women with birth control. In a clinical trial with 500 participants, health care providers in India used either Blumenthals IUD inserter or the traditional forceps method to place the contraceptive, comparing their efficacy, ease and safety.
A paper detailing the clinical trial was published online May 8 in Contraception. Blumenthal is the senior author.
Blumenthals goal is to bring simple, affordable contraception to the masses — particularly in developing countries. Establishing the inserters legitimacy in this trial, Blumenthal said, is a step in that direction. Recently, he spoke with science writer Hanae Armitage about the details of this work, the drivers behind it and how he hopes to see it pan out on an international scale.
Q: With the Drug Controller General of India's approval for commercial use, how will you scale up the process in India, and do you plan to bring this option to women in other developing countries as well?
Blumenthal: Were working with a third-party company called Pregna International. Theyre based in India, and they manufacture IUDs used in programs worldwide. Now with commercial approval, Pregna can market this inserter to the public and private sector in India and reach potentially millions of women. At the same time, other nongovernmental organizations that are working in the family planning area can also recommend this to their programs in India, and that will likely enhance the public-sector programs as well. Currently, the IUD inserter is under review by the United Nations Family Planning Assistance Program, and we hope that this publication will serve to help the UNFPA in its deliberation. Hopefully, that will allow for prequalification of the device, so that it can be used in UNFPA publicly-funded programs that reach other developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Hanae Armitage is a science writer for the medical school's Office of Communication & Public Affairs.