Last year the ministry of health has approved a ‘new’ contraceptive device. Although it’s new to New Zealand, but has been around in the United States and Europe for more than 10 years, so we already know a lot about it. NuvaRing is a vaginal ring, designed to be ‘worn’ inside a women’s body for 3 weeks of the month. It contains the same type of chemicals that are found in the combined oral contraceptive pill. Being a device rather than a pill, it’s designed to deliver a constant low dose of hormones directly to the reproductive organs. There are two reasons for this. The first being convenience, not having to take a pill every day. And the second being to lower the concentrations of the synthetic hormones in the ‘contraceptive’. This is an attempt to reduce the side effects of these synthetic hormones.
These are major problems for hormonal contraceptives. More than half of oral contraceptive users stop taking the pill within 6 months, with side effects being a significant reason. So manufacturers are looking for ways to make lower dose contraceptives to reduce the side effects. And they are significant. For NuvaRing, the list of common side effects (>1/100 women) is long and disturbing.
Common Side effects:
medical device discomfort
dysmenorrhoea (painful periods)
genital pruritus female (itch)
Upper respiratory tract infection
That’s a lot for a women to have to put up with, especially since this medical device isn’t designed to treat any disease. The promoters of contraceptives typically balance their side effects against medical problems that can occur during pregnancy. This is a false comparison. It a women stops using one form of birth control, she often moves to a different method of birth control. As NuvaRing doesn’t treat a disease, this is really just another ‘lifestyle’ product, and it’s side effects should be compared to non-therapeutic products, not lifesaving medications. I can’t imagine people putting up with a consumer product where large numbers of users stop using it after 6 months due to it causing medical problems. And that is exactly the case we have here. NuvaRing is a consumer product. Fertility is not a disease, and sex isn’t compulsory.
If a smartphone caused acne in some users, it would be withdrawn from the market. If a TV caused abdominal pain in 1% or more users, it would be redesigned to be safe. But because it’s a medicine to ‘treat’ the healthy state of fertility, we seem to be ok with the damage it causes.
But it’s one of the less common side effects that is really disturbing:- death.
Users of NuvaRing are six and half times more likely to suffer venous thrombosis (blood clots) than women who don’t use hormonal contraception. And venous thrombosis can be fatal. Even for those it doesn’t kill, it’s a serious medical event that leaves some of the survivors with ongoing health problems. Women using NuvaRing have died from blood clots. In the United States 2000 women have filed a NuvaRing lawsuit, and the FDA have received 5 500 reports of complications. This is unacceptable.
The makers of NuvaRing have attracted a lot of criticism because of their attempts supress information about the more troubling side effects. Hundreds of millions of dollars in profits are involved. Promoting NuvaRing is in the manufacturer’s best interests, it’s not in the best interested of women.
But there is an alternative. There is one form of birth control that doesn’t have any side effects. It doesn’t have a major corporation promoting it, so you might not have ever seen it promoted as a real option. It’s Natural Fertility Regulation. Not only is it free from side effects, it’s easy to learn, very effective, strengthens marriages, and empowers a woman with knowledge to take charge of her own fertility. It can also be used achieve a pregnancy. Isn’t it time you found out about it?