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Newly Approved Vaginal Ring Adds to Women's Birth Control Options

A new contraceptive for women has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As reported by the Early Show's Dr. Emily Senay, the contraceptive ring called NuvaRing works by releasing hormones similar to ones found in birth control pills.

The vaginal ring was developed by Organon, Inc., headquartered in West Orange, New Jersey, and NV Organon, in the Netherlands. Dr. Senay answers some questions about the new device.

What is this new contraceptive and how does it work?

The new contraceptive is what I am holding in my hand right here. This is a contraceptive ring called NuvaRing that works by releasing hormones similar to ones found in birth control pills. It is a soft piece of plastic that is inserted much like a diaphragm and is worn for 3 weeks. It's removed before a period for 1 week, and a new one is inserted after that. The ring is made of a flexible, transparent, colorless polymer that has an estrogen-like hormone and a progesterone-like hormone embedded in it. It slowly releases low doses of those hormones, and that is how it prevents pregnancy.

So it works by releasing hormones. But does it work as well as the birth control pill?

Yes. In studies, it has been found to be up to 99% effective when used correctly. That's similar to the birth control pill, and of course you don't have to remember to take a pill every day. For many women, that is a big selling point. The doctors who studied it said women were very satisfied using it.

Are there any side effects?

The side effects were few, but they did include in some cases irritation, vaginal discharge, and infection. In addition, like all hormonal contraceptives, it can increase the risk of blood clots, heart attacks, and stroke in susceptible people. And because the risk of all those problems goes up dramatically in women who smoke, it is also strongly advised that women who use this not smoke if they are over 35. Also, it is important to know that the ring will not protect against sexually transmitted disease, so if a woman has multiple sexual partners, then additional barrier contraceptives should be used.

What happens if the ring comes out or it's used incorrectly?

The good thing is that the exact positioning of the ring does not interfere with its effectiveness. However, if the ring were to fall out and be out for more than 3 hours, then another form of contraceptive would have to be used until the ring had been reinserted and in place for 7 consecutive days.

How and when will it be available?

Approval by the Food And Drug Administration came this week. The ring will be available by prescription only. It will become gradually available through a limited number of doctors by the end of this year and widely available by mid next year.

How much will the ring cost?

The manufacturer hasn't determined the exact price yet, but it will probably cost between $0 and $40.

Are there any other new contraceptives coming out soon?

Yes. There is a contraceptive patch that is expected to undergo FDA evaluation for approval soon. The patch releases hormones into the skin, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy.

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