Research updates
2. New methods of contraception   p 8
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6. The future Link to the Medical Research Council web site
 
Once a month pill
It is technically possible to use antigestagens in a ‘once a month’ pill. Such a pill could prevent pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation, preventing implantation or disrupting a very early pregnancy. The Contraceptive Development Network decided to assess whether women would welcome a once-a-month pill and, if so, the preferred mode of action. They asked 450 women of reproductive age in each of four centres (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Cape Town and Edinburgh). The majority in all four centres said they would use a once-a-month pill if it worked by preventing ovulation or implantation but less than 20 per cent in Edinburgh and Cape Town would use a method regularly which disrupted implantation. This mode of action was slightly more acceptable in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
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If a once-a-month pill becomes available, it is likely that it will need to be taken at a precise time in the cycle. At present this is an added practical problem, since women would need to carry out urine tests to detect ovulation. However, the positive attitudes of so many women from different cultures should act as an encouragement to pharmaceutical companies interested in turning the concept into a reality.
The future
In five to ten years, antigestagens will be used in new oestrogen-free contraceptive pills. They will replace the gestagen, only ‘mini-pill’ and probably lead to new approaches like a ‘once a month’ pill.

Within the next ten years the dream of an effective safe male pill will probably become a reality, shifting the burden of responsibility for contraception more equally between men and women.

Survey activity
Design a questionnaire to assess attitudes towards different methods of contraception. You can choose to focus on the acceptability of the ‘male pill’ or the ‘once a month pill’. You may prefer to compare attitudes to a range of methods.

You should consider which demographic factors are likely to influence a person’s choice of method of contraception. These might include marital status, religion, number of children, the contraceptive methods they have used previously and other factors. Then write questions which will yield the information you consider relevant (but see ‘Hints’).

Pilot your questionnaire with a few people to check that it is likely to be effective.

Hints:

The golden rule when designing questionnaires is to keep them as short and concise as possible. Only collect information which you are actually going to use. The general public soon lose patience if a questionnaire is too long. You will also find that the results are simpler to analyse.

If you give multiple choice answers to questions, this makes the results easier to collate at the end. However, make sure you give sensible choices and a wide range. Sometimes, it is useful to leave a couple of lines for comments following some multiple choice questions.