Hormonal Methods of Birth Control (cont.)

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Contraceptive patch: Ortho-Evra

An adhesive patch has been developed that provides hormonal contraception through the skin, which is known as a transdermal (through the skin) delivery system. The patch is about the size of a half-dollar and can be worn on the arm, abdomen, or buttocks. A woman wears the patch for a week and then replaces it with a new patch.

These patches, called Ortho-Evra (ethinyl estradiol/norelgestromin patch-topical), are similar to the pill in that they contain both estrogen and progesterone. Ortho-Evra should be just as effective in preventing pregnancy as the pill. Ortho-Evra is similar to the pill in that it suppresses ovulation and has the advantage of improved compliance and convenience due to weekly administration. A woman only needs to remember to replace the patch once a week instead of being required to remember taking a pill every day. However, some studies have shown that the contraceptive patch may be associated with a greater risk of negative side effects, such as blood-clotting problems, than oral contraceptive pills.

Women who have medical reasons why oral contraceptives are not recommended (such as already having an underlying tendency toward blood clotting) may find that their prescribing physician also recommends against Ortho-Evra because of the similarity in the hormone ingredients of both types of contraceptives.

It is important to ensure that the patch makes good contact with the skin. The patch could be a problem for those women who perspire heavily, swim, and/or take frequent showers because moisture can interfere with the patch's contact with the skin. Some women may also experience skin irritation at the site of the patch. Furthermore, contraceptive failure may be a risk in heavier women (those who weigh over 198.4 pounds, or 90 kilograms).

As with all other hormonal methods of birth control, the patch will not protect a woman against sexually transmitted infections.

Vaginal ring: NuvaRing

A ring-shaped device that contains the hormones estradiol and etonogestrel (a progestin) can be placed in the vagina. It remains in place for three weeks continuously, then it is removed for one week to allow for a menstrual period. It continuously releases low levels of the hormone into the bloodstream for the entire three weeks.

There is currently one brand available in the U.S., NuvaRing (etonogestrel/ethinyl estradiol-vaginal ring). It is about 99% effective in preventing pregnancy, having the same high effectiveness as the other hormonal methods of contraception. The incidence of hormone-related side effects is similar to those seen with other hormonal contraceptive methods such as the pill and the patch. Vaginal discharge can sometimes occur as a side effect of the ring preparation.

NuvaRing does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/27/2014

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