The FemCap’s Origin and the Hero Behind the Revolutionary Birth Control Device
The stories behind modernity’s most brilliant innovations typically start with one person’s potential significant impact, and FemCap’s origin story is no different.
While this revolutionary, user-friendly non-hormonal contraceptive device may seem unfamiliar, its origin dates back four decades.
Surprisingly, the initial concept behind the FemCap did not develop from an attempt to prevent pregnancy, but to solve an entirely different unmet medical need in women’s health.
That initial concept brings us to a milestone; let us take a hop skip and a jump through time, arriving in the 1980s.
By this time, Dr. Shihata and Mrs. Shihata were driving through their hometown of San Diego. Both in shock from the news reports heard coming in through the car radio. This news hour was reporting the latest number of deaths tallied from the HIV epidemic and the most recent discoveries as to how the deadly disease was transmitted from men to women sexually.
It was right then and there that it happened, a strike of lightning, a moment of pure electrifying inspiration, and the desperate need for a pencil and paper. Dr. Shihata turned to Mrs. Shihata and asked politely for a few minutes of peaceful silence before animatedly scribbling in his notebook. “I knew what he was doing,” Mrs. Shihata recalls of the moment. “I know what it looks like when he’s had an idea, and he’s inventing something new, right in front of me.”
Indeed, Dr. Shihata was at that moment, drawing diagrams for the prototype for what would become the crowning achievement of his medical career; The first-ever FemCap.
The logic behind the FemCap design was incredibly simple: HIV spreads through contact with blood or seminal fluid. In female patients engaging in penetrative sexual intercourse with a male partner, the most likely way to contract the disease is if said fluids enter their bloodstreams through the cervix. Therefore, the most effective way to protect these women from contracting HIV is by entirely blocking off the opening of the cervix.
Millions of dollars in research grants, multiple prototypes, and quite a few years later, it was ultimately deemed an ethical dilemma by the FDA to clinically test the FemCap for its ability to prevent the spread of HIV. Here is when the unexpected happens, and the FDA did approve of the FemCap’s ability to stop sperm successfully and safely and, thus, prevent pregnancy.
There is a saying that goes as such, “Sometimes when you shake an apple tree, you get an orange.” And boy, did Dr. Shihata invent one huge and delicious orange. The FDA’s approval of the FemCap as a birth control device was and still is an incredible victory for reproductive rights and an advancement in effective non-hormonal birth control.