(CNN)Scientists say they have made a breakthrough on developing a contraceptive pill that only needs to be taken once a month.
The star-shaped capsule could help reduce unintended pregnancies that arise from users forgetting to take their daily dose of the pill, according to a news release from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The capsule is coated with gelatin that can remain in the stomach for weeks after being swallowed, the researchers said. From there, it slowly releases hormones to prevent pregnancy.
Tests conducted on pigs showed that the capsule could provide the same effect as taking daily doses. "We are hopeful that this work -- the first example ever of a month-long pill or capsule to our knowledge -- will someday lead to potentially new modalities and options for women's health," said Robert Langer, a MIT professor and co-author of the study.
The research was mostly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which urged the team to develop new long-lasting contraceptive drugs to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancies.
To make it work, researchers looked for materials that could survive a highly acidic fluid, and discovered that two types of polyurethane could work well for the arms and the central core of the star-shaped capsule. Once the capsule reaches the stomach, it expands and becomes lodged in place. The contraceptive drug, which is loaded in the pill, is then released at a controlled rate over time.