May 2, 2017

The World Health Organization estimates that about 225 million women in developing countries would like to delay or stop childbearing but are not using any method of contraception.

Dr. Jeffrey Jensen of the Oregon National Primate Research Center is working to develop a low-cost, safe and highly effective method of nonsurgical permanent contraception that will meet the needs of women in low-resource regions, but also be of interest to women in resource-rich countries.

“When women have completed their family size, or wish to not have children, many prefer a noninvasive, effective and permanent form of birth control,” said Jensen. “Particularly in low-resource settings where there is no choice but to continue bearing children, women benefit greatly from a safer form of permanent contraception.”

“Many of the patients I see have had good success with reversible contraception methods, but still desire a permanent method,” he continued. The only permanent form of contraception currently available to women is tubal ligation, which “requires, at a minimum, one counseling visit, one pre-operative visit, and one half-day in the day surgical unit or procedure room. The inconvenience and time burden for my patients provides a strong motivation for me to come up with a better approach.”

Dr. Jensen believes that the approach to permanent contraception should be the same for women in lesser developed as in more developed nations. To be acceptable in regions with low resources, like sub-Saharan Africa, women and health care providers need to know that a method is safe and well-accepted by well-to-do women in resource-rich nations, he says.

With a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Jensen launched the Oregon Permanent Contraception Research Center at the Oregon National Primate Research Center.

Jensen’s team is taking a different approach from other permanent contraception options by using nonhuman primates because of the anatomic features and reproductive physiology they share with women. Using an animal research model, Jensen’s research showed that administration of a single dose of polidocanal foam transcervically (similar to placement of an IUD) resulted in a high rate of tubal occlusion with prevention of pregnancy in most of the treated primates. None of the females treated with 5 percent polidocanal foam became pregnant during six months of follow-up, and microscopic evaluation of the tubes showed scarring which would block sperm access to the fallopian tubes.

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