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Long-Term Birth Control: New Implants and Patches

Prevent pregnancy without thinking about it.

Ortho Evra: Birth Control Patch continued...

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.

Some women like the reassurance of an occasional period, he says. "If you want have a bleed every three or four months, that's fine. If you don't, that's fine, too."

"I like the ring," Ross tells WebMD. "It's actually very easy to put in, much easier than the old diaphragm. But some women have a real problem putting things into the vagina, or they're afraid it's going to get lost or afraid to take it out."

One drawback: The ring sometimes slips out of place at an inopportune moment. "The chances of that happening are actually very small, and when it does happen, women notice," Estes says. "You can wash it off, and place it back inside. As long as it's not out more than two hours, you can reuse the ring."

Ross hasn't heard complaints about the ring slipping out. "I don't think it comes out that easily," she says. "Among my patients, I haven't heard about that."

Mirena: The New IUD

Mirena is a new style of IUD, or intrauterine device -- one with "lots of benefits," says Estes.

"It's the least user-dependent method of all," he tells WebMD. "Once it's in, its in." The chances of pregnancy are very, very low -- 1% at most. Mirena must be replaced by a doctor every five years.

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What birth control method do you use now?