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Long-Term Birth Control: New Implants and Patches

Prevent pregnancy without thinking about it.

Ortho Evra: Birth Control Patch continued...

"The jury is still out on that," Estes tells WebMD. "If you ask my opinion and that of professionals around the world, we need more information. So far, it doesn't look like a significantly increased risk of blood clots. It's something that is still being looked into, but I have not counseled any patients to stop using the patch because of this."

Estes puts the risk into perspective: "Young, healthy nonsmokers have an extremely low risk of blood clots," he tells WebMD. "About 1 in 1,000 of those women will have a blood clot. If they take the pill, it's 3 in 1,000 -- still a very, very low risk. If the patch doubles that risk, it's still very low."

Compare that to the risk of blood clots during pregnancy, which is about nine times the normal risk, he says. "Even if the pill or patch increases your risk, it's still safer than pregnancy. Most women want the patch because they don't want to take the pill every day. For them, it's a more convenient option."

Patti J. Ross, MD, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, says, "I personally don't have a problem prescribing the patch. If a woman doesn't have any other risk factors and wants to try it, that's fine."

But she's found that some patients are still concerned about the blood clot issue. Another downside: In warm climates like Houston's, the patch tends to get "sticky and gooey," she tells WebMD. "That's why we have other choices, other options."

NuvaRing: Birth Control Ring

The contraceptive vaginal ring, NuvaRing, is flexible and small, and a woman can insert it directly into her vagina. Because it's not a barrier method, it doesn't have to be precisely placed. It releases the same hormones as birth control pills but performs this function from inside the vagina.

"It works very, very well" in preventing pregnancy, says Estes.

Every three weeks, a new ring must be inserted. If you want to skip periods, the ring will let you do that, Estes explains. Instead of having a week with no ring in, you can switch directly to another ring so there’s no withdrawal bleeding.

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