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Selecting an appropriate and effective birth control method is a very personal issue for a woman and her partner. But effectiveness isn’t the only consideration. So too is safety. And while there are now multiple and diverse options to select from, not all are equally safe for the overall health of the woman using it. Most recently, non-oral forms of birth control such as NuvaRing and Ortho Evra have been shown to present greater health risks to women as compared to oral birth control.

This month, a study was published in the British Medical Journal by a team of researcher from Denmark that shows a significantly increased risk of a condition known as “venous thrombosis” or “deep vein thrombosis” in women using these two non-oral forms of birth control. Deep vein thrombosis is a potentially life threatening condition where a blood clot forms in a blood vessel. It can become life threatening when the clot detaches from the blood vessel and travels to the lung creating a blockage, or “pulmonary embolism”.

The Danish research team found that the risk of this condition is much greater for women who use vaginal rings (NuvaRing) or contraceptive patches (Ortho Evra). The study was based on examining data from four national registries in Denmark that included over 1.6 million non-pregnant women between the ages of 15-49, who were free of previous thrombotic disease or cancer. The data covered a nearly ten-year span between 2001 and 2010.

Analysis of that data revealed that women who use hormonal transdermal patches have a 7.9 times increased risk of venous thrombosis and those using vaginal rings have a 6.5 times increased risk of venous thrombosis, as compared to non-users of hormonal contraception of the same age. Those numbers led the research team to conclude that “women are generally advised to use combined oral contraceptives with levonorgestrel or norgestimate, rather than to use transdermal patches or vaginal rings.” Previous studies have shown the safety of those types of oral birth control over others that contain desogestrel, gestodene or drospirenone.

In light of this new research, women who are currently using NuvaRing or Ortho Evra as their preferred birth control method should carefully discuss with their physicians the risks involved and safer alternatives that might be more appropriate.

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