About NuvaRing

By HighYa Research Team
Published on: Oct 19, 2014

NuvaRing (etonogestrel/ethinyl estradiol) is a prescription-only vaginal contraceptive ring that is claimed to be 98% effective for preventing pregnancy, similar to traditional birth control pills. However, when compared to pills, NuvaRing remains in place and doesn’t require that you remember to take a pill each day.

What’s the Main Benefit of Using NuvaRing?

Since the first birth control pill was approved by the FDA in 1960, women everyone have struggled to remember to take them on a daily basis, which can actually cause them to be less effective. And since this time, companies have struggled with different methods of solving this problem.

One of the most recent attempts at this is NuvaRing, which is a small, flexible birth control ring about 2 inches in diameter that claims to be easy to insert and to remove. In fact, according to the manufacturer, all you have to do is hold the ring between your thumb and index finger, press the sides together, and insert. And once NuvaRing is in place, you likely won’t even know it’s there.

After your NuvaRing is in place, it’s claimed to continuously release a low dose of estrogen (0.120mg) and progestin (0.015mg) hormones each day, which are very similar (or in some instances, identical) to the hormones found in a pill. Unlike the pill though, you’ll keep NuvaRing in place for 3 weeks (21 days) at a time, which means that you won’t have to remember to take any pills. Then, you’ll remove the device for 1 week (7 days), reinsert another afterward, and repeat the process.

Once finished, you’re used NuvaRing should be placed in the re-closeable foil pouch and discarded. According to the company, you can stop using NuvaRing whenever you wish.

Is NuvaRing Right for You?

Although NuvaRing is claimed to make birth control more convenient, it’s not for everyone.

According to the product’s website, NuvaRing should not be used if you smoke cigarettes and are over the age of 35, which can increase the potential of heart and blood vessel problems. You also should not use the product if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, liver disease, and more. Finally, there are also considerations to keep in mind depending on whether or not you’re currently taking birth control, and in what form.

NuvaRing is claimed to cause common side effects such as vaginal irritation, headache, mood changes, bleeding and spotting between periods, and more. For a full list of precautions and side effects related to NuvaRing, be sure to read through their Patient Information.

NuvaRing Pricing & Refund Policy

Because NuvaRing is a prescription medication, what you’ll ultimately pay depends largely on whether or not you have health insurance, and if so, what kind of coverage your policy provides. However, Planned Parenthood claims NuvaRing (or its generic equivalent) costs about $15-$50 per month.

With this said, NuvaRing’s manufacturer offers a savings card can help you save 50% (up to $50) on each of your 12 monthly prescriptions.

Consumer Feedback

Overall, it appears that NuvaRing has a mostly positive online customer reputation. In fact, according to Drugs.com, nearly 60% of patients rated it between 8 and 10 stars. As such, based on reviews found there, as well as other websites such as WebMD and RxList, some of the most common compliments reference ease of use (no daily dosing), that it does not cause acne, that it causes breasts to appear fuller, and that it results in very few (if any) side effects.

On the other hand, some of the most common complaints surrounding NuvaRing, which could be associated with traditional birth control pills as well, include cramps/nausea/vomiting (most were mild to moderate, but numerous patients claimed severe), mood swings/decreased motivation, breakthrough bleeding, loss of sexual interest, and instances of vastly increased appetite.

While most of these side effects were on the moderate side, it’s important to note that there have been numerous occurrences of severe, often fatal side effects related to NuvaRing. We’ll talk more about this in a moment.

Is NuvaRing a Good Alternative to Birth Control Pills?

If you find that you tolerate birth control pills well, but are sick and tired of having to remember to take them at the same time every day, is NuvaRing a good option? Maybe, but consider the following:

NuvaRing’s Effectiveness

First, while NuvaRing is claimed to be about as effective as birth control pills, the Patient Information document on the product’s website puts it in more straightforward terms: “Based on the results of a US clinical study, approximately 1 to 3 women out of 100 women may get pregnant during the first year they use NuvaRing.”

As such, if these odds aren’t high enough for you, you may want to bolster NuvaRing’s effectiveness with a second birth control method, such as condoms.

NuvaRing’s Convenience

Next, although NuvaRing is claimed to be much more convenient than traditional birth control pills, this shouldn’t be taken to mean that it’s maintenance-free. This is because the ring should be removed after 21 days, at the same time it was inserted.

Here’s the example provided on the NuvaRing website: If you insert your NuvaRing at 8a on Monday, it should be removed on Monday at 8a exactly 3 weeks later. Then, exactly 7 days afterward, you’ll to insert a new NuvaRing, and the process repeats itself. To help you remember, the product’s website provides a handy reminder tool.

Also, consider the fact that, while NuvaRing claims that it cannot become lost inside you, it can be expelled during intercourse or when removing a tampon, although the manufacturer recommends rinsing it in cool to lukewarm (not hot) water and reinserting if this occurs. However, this could just add one more thing for you to worry about, especially considering the fact that you likely won’t be able to feel your NuvaRing once it’s been inserted.

NuvaRing’s Lawsuit History

Finally, NuvaRing has actually been on the market since 2002, when it was originally manufactured by Organon, which was merged into the Schering-Plow company 6 years later. Today, this company is known as Merck & Co. Inc.

During its time on the market, NuvaRing has been the subject of numerous federal lawsuits, which were consolidated into a single multidistrict litigation case in 2008. According to DrugWatch, “After a number of women suffered serious side effects from the drug — some fatal — lawsuits were filed against the drug’s manufacturers. The complaints accuse Merck, Organon and Schering-Plough of failing to disclose known dangerous side effects and claim that the active ingredient in the drug, etonogestrel, was inadequately tested before NuvaRing’s release. The growing number of lawsuits led to the consolidation of these cases into a multidistrict litigation (MDL). In early 2014, Merck reportedly agreed to settle more than 1,700 NuvaRing lawsuits for a combined $100 million.”

In fact, we found more than one patient review during our research who claimed that their use of NuvaRing led to the formation of a pulmonary embolism. While this severe side effect is claimed to be relatively rare, it’s occurred often enough that you should keep it at the top of your mind.

Bottom Line

Based on its apparently positive online reputation, NuvaRing may be a good birth control option if you already tolerate traditional pills, lead a hectic lifestyle, and/or frequently forget to take your birth control pill daily. However, you’ll need to have an open conversation with your physician about your medical history (including any nutritional supplements or over the counter medications you’re taking), and any other concerns you may have in order to avoid possibly severe side effects.

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