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SCIENCE REPORT – October 25, 2001: New Birth Control Ring - 2001-10-24

This is the VOA Special English Science Report.

The United States government has approved a new device that women can use to prevent pregnancy for a month at a time. The device is called the NuvaRing. It uses hormones to prevent pregnancy. It offers another choice for women who do not want to take birth control pills every day.

The NuvaRing is a circle that is five centimeters across. A woman places it in her vagina on or before the fifth day of her monthly period. It releases a small amount of the hormones estrogen and progestin every day. She uses it for three weeks. She then removes the ring for a week during her monthly period. She uses a new ring each month for continuous birth control.

The hormones released are the same ones used in birth control pills. An official of the Food and Drug Administration says the NuvaRing works as well as the pills.

Researchers say the NuvaRing is not meant to block sperm to prevent pregnancy. The device also does not prevent diseases passed during sexual relations. These include the virus that causes the deadly disease AIDS.

Before approving the NuvaRing, the Food and Drug Administration studied use of the device by women around the world. More than two-thousand-three-hundred women tested the device for a year. It prevented pregnancy in more than ninety-eight percent of the women who used it. That rate is similar to other leading birth control methods.

The F-D-A said about fourteen percent of women who used the NuvaRing had vaginal infections. However, some women who do not use the ring also have this problem.

A company called Organon of West Orange, New Jersey developed the NuvaRing. Company scientists warn that the NuvaRing has the same possible risks and side effects as birth control pills. These include an increased risk of blood blockages and heart attacks. The company says women using hormonal birth control methods should not smoke cigarettes. Smoking increases the risk of serious side effects.

Organon is part of an international company with headquarters in The Netherlands. Company officials in the United States say they will start selling the NuvaRing next year. A woman will need an order from her doctor to buy it. The company has not said how much the devices will cost.

This VOA Special English Science Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.