Everything You Should Know About First Non-Hormonal Birth Control Gel

Phexxi, developed by biopharmaceutical company Evofem Biosciences, is considered an "on-demand" type of birth control, meaning you only use it when you need it.

In a few months, women will be able to try the first new nonhormonal birth control option in decades. Recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Phexxi is a contraceptive gel scheduled for release in September. Phexxi, developed by biopharmaceutical company Evofem Biosciences, is considered an “on-demand” type of birth control, meaning you only use it when you need it.

“There have been a limited number of advances in birth control over the last 2 decades; Phexxi represents an important step forward in women’s health,” said Michael A. Thomas, MD, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, in a press release. “Many of my patients have cycled through numerous contraceptive options and still have not found the right fit for their sexual and reproductive needs. Phexxi offers women freedom from hormones and control over how they choose to prevent pregnancy. I look forward to offering this new on-demand option to my patients.”

Options Available Right Now

There’re so many hormonal and non-hormonal options when you’re looking for the right contraceptive method for you. While the pill is still the most popular form of female contraception, new types of birth control are still being developed.

How Does Phexxi Work?

Phexxi needs to be inserted vaginally before sex. But unlike spermicides, which block the entrance to the cervix and slow down sperm so they’re not powerful enough to reach the egg, Phexxi works by changing the pH of the vagina during sex to prevent pregnancy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Phexxi on May 22. Made up of lactic acid, citric acid and potassium bitartrate, it comes in the form of a gel that comes with an applicator and can be inserted into the vagina shortly before sex.

Phexxi comes in pre-filled applicators that need to be inserted into the vagina no more than an hour before intercourse. (A new applicator must be used for every act of intercourse.)

What affect the pH of your vagina?

Many things can affect the pH of your vagina, including sperm. Generally, it should have a pH level between 3.5 and 4.5 making it acidic. However, sperm raises the pH to around 7 or 8 making it neutral. Phexxi was developed to maintain the natural pH levels in your vagina so sperm can’t survive.

Why we need new methods of contraception

The approval of a new method of contraception is important because most forms contain synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone, hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle to block ovulation. Hormonal methods were introduced in the 1960s with the invention of the pill, and other hormonal methods now include the birth control shot, patch, ring, and implant.

How Safe Is Phexxi?

Phexxi was tested on 1,400 women who were aged between 18 to 35. It was 86 percent effective on average over seven menstrual cycles. A small minority of women suffered from cystitis, pyelonephritis, and UTI’s afterward and Evofem has suggested that Phexxi isn’t suitable for people with a history of recurrent urinary tract infections or urinary tract abnormalities.

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