According to a recent New Scientist article, there’s a new contraceptive method on the horizon. Hormone-based intrauterine devices and contraceptive pills can cause side effects like mood swings, reduced sex drive, nausea and headaches. To prevent these unwanted effects, the new contraceptive gel, developed at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, doesn’t rely on hormones to prevent pregnancy.
Rather, the gel contains chitosan, a biopolymer derived from fungus or crab shells. Chitosan forms cross-links with proteins cervical mucus and thickens it to block sperm from traveling past the cervix to the fallopian tubes where fertilization happens. To test the gel, researchers used a syringe applicator to apply it to the vaginas of eight sheep and an hour later artificially inseminated them with 1 billion sperm each. The gel formed a barrier that effectively prevented impregnation. Next, the team will conduct more studies in sheep to test whether the barrier holds up during intercourse.