Font Size

Birth Control Overview (cont.)

What is RU-486 (mifeprestone)?

A drug called mifepristone (also known as RU-486) can block production of progesterone, a hormone produced by the placenta that is needed for pregnancy to continue, assuming an egg has been fertilized and implanted in the uterus. By taking this drug (and another one called misoprostol)), a pregnancy can be terminated if 49 or fewer days have elapsed since the onset of the last menstrual period.

  • These drugs should only administered by a physician who has been trained to diagnose problems that may develop such as ectopic pregnancy. You will be asked to sign a statement indicating you understand you are terminating a pregnancy.
  • Once you take on oral dose (pill taken by mouth) of mifepristone, you will be given misoprostol 2 days later to cause your uterus to contract and expel the embryo through the vagina.
  • You will experience cramping and bleeding, and it is necessary to return to your doctor for follow-up examinations.
  • This method is not a preventive form of birth control, as it is used after a pregnancy has already been established.

What new methods and types of hormonal birth control are being studied?

Although development of new birth control methods in the United States has slowed in the past few years, research outside of the United States continues at a rapid pace. Many new birth control designs are being tested to provide a greater variety of methods with fewer side effects, greater safety, and efficacy.

  • Pill for men: One exciting new development is a hormonal contraceptive method for men. The male birth control pill manipulates steroid hormones to decrease viable sperm production.
  • Injection for men: A reversible male birth control method utilizing injections of progestin every 3 months has been shown to decrease sperm production. With this method, implants are placed under the surface of the skin every four months. This evolving technology has been shown to reduce male sex drive (libido).
  • Vaccine: A pregnancy vaccine is one of the most controversial and exciting forms of birth control under development. The pregnancy vaccine stimulates an immune response against sperm so that fertilization does not occur.

Medically reviewed by Wayne Blocker, MD; Board Certified Obstetrics and Gynecology


Kaunitz, A.M., MD. "Contraceptive counseling and selection." UpToDate. Updated: Aug 15, 2016.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/26/2016
Medical Author:

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Birth Control Types (Effectiveness and Side Effects):

Birth Control Types - Experience

Please share your experience with different birth control methods, their effectiveness, and side effects.

Birth Control Types - Pills

If you have taken birth control pills please share your experience including associated side effects and effectiveness.

Birth Control - Natural Methods

Have you tried birth control through natural or behavioral methods? Was it effective? Please describe your experience.

Birth Control - Side Effects

Did you experience side effects from using an intrauterine device or other methods of medical birth control? If so, please describe the side effects.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Contraception »

The practice of contraception is as old as human existence.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary