Biomaterials and Contraception: Promises and Pitfalls

  • Isabella Claure
  • Deborah Anderson
  • Catherine M. Klapperich
  • Wendy Kuohung
  • Joyce Y. WongEmail author
S.I. : Biomaterials - Engineering Cell Behavior


The present state of reproductive and sexual health around the world reveals disparities in contraceptive use and effectiveness. Unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection transmission rates remain high even with current prevention methods. The 20th century saw a contraceptive revolution with biomedical innovation driving the success of new contraceptive technologies with central design concepts and materials. Current modalities can be broadly categorized according to their mode of function: reversible methods such as physical/chemical barriers or hormonal delivery devices via systemic (transdermal and subcutaneous) or localized (intrauterine and intravaginal) administration, and nonreversible sterilization procedures such as tubal ligation and vasectomy. Contraceptive biomaterials are at present dominated by well-characterized elastomers such as polydimethylsiloxane and ethylene vinyl acetate due to their favorable material properties and versatility. Contraceptives alter the normal function of cellular components in the reproductive systems to impair fertility. The purpose of this review is to highlight the bioengineering design of existing methods, explore novel adaptations, and address notable shortcomings in current contraceptive technologies.


Barrier technologies Hormonal delivery devices Bioengineering design STI prevention Reproductive health 



Short-acting reversible contraception


Long-acting reversible contraception


Multipurpose prevention technologies


Intrauterine device


Intravaginal ring


Sexually transmitted infection


Human immunodeficiency virus


Herpes simplex virus


Gonadotropin releasing hormone


Follicle stimulating hormone


Luteinizing hormone


Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator






Polyvinyl alcohol


Polyethylene glycol




Polyethylene vinyl acetate


Polyethylene terephthalate


Reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance


Styrene maleic anhydride



I.C acknowledges support from the National Institutes of Health training grant at Boston University, T32 EB006359. DA receives support from NIH grant U54 HD095957. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Biomedical EngineeringBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.Obstetrics and GynecologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.MedicineBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  4. 4.Mechanical EngineeringBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  5. 5.Division of Materials Science and EngineeringBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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