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    Not Your Mother's Birth Control

    Women today have a wide array of new and easy birth control options. Just pick your preference!

    "You Don't Have to Think About It" continued...

    Some women avoid IUDs because of fears of infection and infertility. But those problems were limited to the Dalkon Shield, which had a braided string for the doctor to use in removing the device. The braiding allowed bacteria to grow, unlike the single-filament strings used to remove Mirena (and the other current IUD, the copper-IUD).

    As with any birth control method, there are some disadvantages. Mirena has to be inserted and removed by a doctor; it's a simple, painless procedure, but not a do-it-yourself task. It's also expensive, costing about $360 for the device plus your doctor's visit fees, if your insurance doesn't cover it (some plans do).

    Following on Mirena's heels came Lunelle, a monthly hormonal injection. Unlike Depo-Provera, women still menstruate with Lunelle, which has a ten-day "window" for each new dose. In other words, if you got your last Lunelle shot on October 10, you can get your next one any time from November 5-15 without dampening its effectiveness.

    Lunelle's effectiveness, at 98-99%, is equivalent to that of the birth control pill if the woman's compliance is good. And since you have to get the shot only once a month, compliance should be higher than with a once-a-day pill. Disadvantages? Some women don't like shots, and the monthly doctor visits can be inconvenient.

    Patching It Up

    Tiel predicts that Ortho Evra, the birth control patch, will be immensely popular. Using the same hormones as in the most popular birth control pill, Ortho Tri Cyclen, the patch can be applied anywhere on the body -- the buttocks, the lower back, the abdomen -- except directly over the breast. "It's discreet. People don't have to see it if it's under your underwear," she says. It's changed once a week, and has the same possible side effects as the pill.

    The big difference: patch compliance rates are much higher than with the pill, especially for younger women. Teenagers, for example, manage effective pill compliance 67% of the time, but with the patch, they use it effectively 88% of the time. The patch does occasionally come loose -- about 3% of the time -- and users need to check once a day to make sure it's still firmly in place.

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