This is NuvaRing: a prescription contraceptive for women, self-administered once a month, that does not involve pills, injections, implants, or surgery, highly effective and completely reversable.

Sound good?

NuvaRing is a flexible plastic ring that is inserted into the vagina. The outer diameter is 54 mm and the cross-sectional diameter is 4mm. Synthetic progesterone and estrogen contained in the plastic are slowly absorbed into the system (0.120mg/day of etonogestrel and 0.015mg/day of ethinyl estradiol). It then works exactly like the Pill, tricking your body into thinking you're pregnant and therefore not ovulating. The ring is left in for 3 weeks, then removed for a week for mestruation (again, just like the Pill). Then you throw away the old ring and put in a new one. It was approved by the FDA in October 2001, and made generally available in the US in July 2002.

Insertion is done at home. It's kind of like putting in an applicatorless tampon; you just stick it in as far as it will go. Because it's not a barrier method like a diaphragm, the exact location doesn't matter. The cervix will stop it from going in too far. If it's in properly, you shouldn't be able to feel it, although you may randomly be aware of it. To remove, just pull it out. Occasionally the ring will come out accidentally. If it out for less than 3 hours, you can rinse it off and put it back in. If it is out for more than 3 hours, put in a new ring as soon as possible, and use a back-up method of birth control for a week.

Used correctly, NuvaRing has a 1-2% failure rate, which is about the same as oral contraceptives.

Common side effects include vaginal infections and irritiation, vaginal discharge, headache, weight gain, and nausea.

Common side effects for hormonal contraceptives in general include vomiting, change in appetite, abdominal cramps or bloating, breast tenderness or enlargement, irregular vaginal bleeding or spotting, changes in menstrual cycle, fluid retention, spotty darkening of the skin especially on the face, rash, weight changes, depression, and intolerance to contact lenses.

More serious side effects include blood clots, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, and liver tumors.

Women with certain health conditions should not use NuvaRing; talk to your doctor. They strongly recommend that you don't smoke while using NuvaRing. Also if you don't like touching yourself "down there", or feeding yourself hormones, this is probably not for you. For anyone else, though, this seems like a simple, convienient method of birth control. In a preliminary release 96% of users said they would continue using it. It will be interesting to see if it catches on.

For pictures and more information, see

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