A new scientific discovery may render the pill obsolete.
Move over, pill. Now, researchers have developed a contraceptive gel which offers an alternative to the oral drug with none of its side-effects.
Women will be able to simply wipe on the colourless gel each day; it will deliver a specific dose of hormones absorbed through the skin to prevent pregnancy, according to a team at New York's Population Council research centre, which is carrying out a trial on the product.
The new gel, which is said to be around 99 per cent effective, will be commercially available in the market within a few years, the Daily Express reported.
Millions of women worldwide use the pill, but it has been associated with strokes, heart attacks and blood clots, weight gain, mood swings and even acne. Some have suffered skin irritation with the patches and others are put off by the fact that it can be seen when they are wearing a swimsuit. And many women dislike the other existing alternative -- an injection that lasts for three months.
The new gel, which can be applied to the abdomen, thighs, arms or shoulders and is quickly absorbed with no residue, has none of these problems, say the experts. It is even suitable for women who are breast-feeding, who are often warned not to take the pill because its hormone levels interfere with milk supply.
Dr Ruth Merkatz, of New York's Population Council research centre, led the study on the gel, which involved 18 women in their 20s and 30s. Over seven months, none of the women fell pregnant and the gel had "very high acceptability", she was quoted as saying.
Natika Halil, of the UK Family Planning Association added: "Any contraceptive system that increases the choice of methods and helps prevent unwanted pregnancies is welcome."
Photograph: Victor Byckttor/Wikimedia Commons