Now research published in Nature Biomedical Engineering journal suggests micro-needle patches can also be used to slowly release contraceptives. In rats, a high level of the contraceptive hormone was sustained for over a month.
“There’s a real need around the world to improve access to contraception,” said Prof Prausnitz. “Long acting contraception is appealing as compliance is easier for instance, you don’t have to remember to take a pill.
“But self-administered contraception could be of great use where women don’t have any access to healthcare,” he added.
A larger contraceptive patch has been developed to use in humans, but not yet tested. As the patch remains in the early stages of development scientists are not yet sure of the cost, though Prof Prausnitz said that he thought it would be similar to existing birth control options.
He added that he hoped the team would develop microneedles that last for six months, not one, which would further reduce the cost.
But while the team are excited about the potential of the patches, it is likely to be at least five years before they are available for women to use.