Article Lead Image

Is a remote-controlled microchip the future of birth control?

This microchip releases hormones when it's implanted under your skin. 


EJ Dickson


Posted on Jul 4, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 12:32 am CDT

We’ve been trying to develop a safe, effective, non-intrusive, non-terrifying method of birth control for centuries. But between condoms that tear and birth control pills with crappy side effects, there seems to be a drawback to every currently available option.

One firm, however, thinks it’s come up with a pretty good alternative. The Lexington, Mass., tech firm MicroCHIPS is developing a wireless implant (not pictured above) that can be turned on and off via remote control. So if you’re a woman trying to conceive and you want to go off your birth control, you don’t have to go through the hassle of consultations and visits to your gynecologist; you can just switch it off, as easily as changing the volume on your TV.

According to the MIT Technology Review, the implant measures about 20 x 20 x 7 millimeters, and it can be inserted into your arm, your rear, or your abdomen. In essence, it works about the same way that similar birth control implants like Implanon and Nexplanon do: By releasing a tiny amount of levonorgestrel, a contraceptive hormone, into your blood tream every day. Because these implants release hormones automatically, they have a significant advantage over traditional birth control pills, which you have to remember to take at the same time every day for them to be effective. 

What makes MicroCHIPS’ implant special, however, is how long it lasts. Unlike other hormonal contraceptive implants, which last about five years when they’re put into your body, the microchip has a lifespan of about 16 years. Additionally, there’s a wireless component to the implant, so either you or your doctor can adjust the hormone levels, or just turn it off entirely, remotely, cutting down on the costs of inpatient procedures or frequent doctor’s visits.

Of course, there’s plenty of reason not to get too excited about microchip birth control just yet. The patent still needs to be tweaked before the firm submits it to the FDA for approval, as they have to encrypt the chips to keep the implant wearer’s data secure and prevent it from being hacked. (There also seems to be the usual speculation in Internet conspiracy theorist circles about microchip technology as a form of government population control.)

It’s also unclear whether the microchip will yield the same potential side effects as Implanon and Nexplanon do, including irregular bleeding, nausea, and weight gain. But we have some time to figure out the answers to these questions before MicroCHIPS’ device hits the market around 2018.

H/T MIT Technology Review | Photo by fdecomite/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Share this article
*First Published: Jul 4, 2014, 1:57 pm CDT