A contraceptive gel which has none of the side affects of the Pill could be available to women in the future after undergoing a successful trial period.
The clear gel is applied to the skin on a daily basis and contains a dose of hormones that prevent pregnancy.
The substance is also suitable for women who are breastfeeding, often warned not to take the combined Pill because its hormone levels interfere with milk supply.
Nestorone, a new type of progesterone, is the key ingredient in the gel. The product also contains a type of oestrogen that is chemically identical to the oestrogen produced by a woman’s body.
Both these hormones play an important role in pregnancy and the gel works by interfering with their normal patterns of production. It could be on the market soon if clinical trial results continue to be positive.
Director of clinical development of reproductive health at the Population Council research centre in New York, Dr Ruth Merkatz, led the latest study on the gel, which involved 18 women in their 20s to 30s.
She revealed that none of the women fell pregnant and the gel had “very high acceptability” over a seven-month period.
Dr Merkatz, who is presenting the findings at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), insists the gel could provide women with more choice on contraception.
Dr Merkatz also revealed, more importantly perhaps, that Nestorone does not appear to have any of the negative effects associated with oral contraceptives, such as weight gain and acne.
“This could be a reason why women might choose it,” she said.
The gel can be applied to the abdomen, thighs, arms or shoulders and is quickly absorbed, without leaving any residue. The study concluded that the optimum dose is approximately 3mg a day.