A low-estrogen contraceptive approved by the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) in 2001 has been linked to a higher incidence of venous thrombosis (blood clots), strokes, and other problems.
NuvaRing, manufactured by Organon in the Netherlands, is a once-a-month contraceptive consisting of a plastic ring the size of a silver dollar, and is inserted into the vagina for a three week period. It is removed the week women menstruate. It combines etonogestrel, the progestin hormone component, and ethinyl etradiol, the estrogen hormone component. These hormones provide a constant dosage released directly in the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy from occurring. A new ring is inserted after the user’s menstrual cycle is over.
Though all hormone releasing contraceptives carry some risk of side effects, it was reported that users of NuvaRing have experienced side effects not usually seen with other hormonal birth control devices. Three women developed complications including blood clots, and ten others were reported to have suffered other side effects.
- Blood clots
- Heart attacks
- Pulmonary embolism
- Myocardial infarction
Though NuvaRing is not an oral contraceptive, the etonogestrel component it contains is a metabolite of a progestin called desogestrel. Desogestrel is contained in third generation oral contraceptives. Approximately 120 micrograms of etonogestrel is released from the ring each day. This is a fairly high dose, and may be a factor for the high number of cardio side effects reported.
In December 2007, Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, asked the FDA to ban third generation oral contraceptive with this progestin because of the increased risk of blood clots, claiming the risk of clots is double over second generation contraceptives. Public Citizen’s petition to the FDA states that contraceptives containing desogestrel resulted in 30 cases of venous thrombosis for every 100,000 users per year, compared to 15 cases for every 100,000 users of second generation contraceptives per year. Because 7.5 million prescriptions were filled out for third generation oral contraceptives between November 2005 and October 2006, hundreds of cases could be avoided if desogestrel is removed from these contraceptives, as well as NuvaRing.