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Long-Term Birth Control: New Implants and Patches

Prevent pregnancy without thinking about it.
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NuvaRing: Birth Control Ring continued...

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.

Mirena does not contain estrogen, but releases another hormone -- levonorgestrel -- into the uterus, which creates a "hostile uterine environment" that prevents pregnancy. "It's as effective as tubal ligation (tubes tied) in preventing pregnancy," Estes explains.

It also decreases menstrual flow and cramps. "We use it to treat women who have heavy periods," he says. "It's my first-line treatment for heavy bleeding. Some women actually have no periods at all."

"Mirena is a method that is really catching on," Ross tells WebMD. "We're seeing a lot more patients who want the IUD. Women used to be afraid of infection from IUDs, but new data shows that it's not a risk if you're monogamous. It's also good for people who can't afford birth control pills, because once you have it, it's good for several years."

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What birth control method do you use now?