As a leading women’s health clinical research organization (CRO), Health Decisions joins the World Health Organization and others in celebrating World Contraception Day. We view this as an occasion to recognize the progress in contraception made since the introduction of the first oral contraceptive and the first intrauterine device (IUD) in the United States almost 60 years ago. Since those early days, there has been enormous progress in oral contraception, with greatly reduced dosages and different hormonal regimens that offer women different choices based on her needs. Progress in IUDs has been slower but there are now 5 different types available. Although worldwide the IUD is the second most common form of birth control, this isn’t true here in the US. As improvements are made, however, the use of IUDs here in the US will grow.

Progress in contraception has not been limited to oral contraceptives and IUDs. OB/GYNs now routinely offer women a wide selection of contraceptive choices, including combination drug-devices such as hormone-infused vaginal rings, contraceptive patches and combination hormonal contraceptives administered monthly by injection. Furthermore, research in contraception continues. For example, the Population Council has developed an investigational contraceptive vaginal ring. Pharmaceutical companies are developing new oral contraceptives and patches which further reduce the already low risk of thrombosis (blood clots). Another potential area of research is the impact hormonal contraceptives can have on a woman’s libido. Most forms of contraception inhibit ovulation (except the IUDs) and this can reduce a woman’s libido. There is on-going research into approaches to preventing or minimizing this reduction in libido. That would be a positive change in contraception. While some researchers focus on mitigating negative effects of contraceptives on libido, others are evaluating techniques for improving a woman’s libido.

Health Decisions serves as the Statistical and Clinical Coordinating Center for the Contraceptive Clinical Trials Network of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). In this role, we work with some of the most prestigious investigators involved in the development of new forms of contraception, including improved contraceptives for women and potential male hormonal contraceptives. For women in a stable relationship, a partner using an effective male hormonal contraceptive would eliminate concerns about the potential effects of existing female contraceptives on health and quality of life. We consider it a privilege to be on the forefront of research with the potential to benefit the vast population of women who rely on contraceptives to manage their reproductive lives. On World Contraception Day, we look forward to assisting with clinical development of new products that expand the range of contraceptive methods available to women worldwide.

Andrea S. Lukes, MD, MHSc, FACOG  is Chief Medical Officer at Health Decisions. Dr. Lukes is an expert on clinical development of women’s health products across a wide range of indications across the female lifecycle. Her areas of expertise include but are not limited to endometrial ablation, hysteroscopy, minimally invasive gynecology, bleeding disorders, uterine fibroids, contraception, menopause and vasomotor symptoms. Dr. Lukes advises Health Decisions and our clients on development and implementation of research protocols as well as communications and presentations to the FDA. Dr. Luke’s articles have appeared in journals including Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Fertility and Sterility and the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology.  Dr. Lukes received a bachelor’s degree and a combined medical degree and master’s degree in statistics from Duke University. She completed her residency at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.