NuvaRing, a device shaped like a ring and inserted into the vagina, is a third-generation contraceptive that relies for effectiveness on doses of progestin and estrogen over a three-week period, thus mimicking a woman’s natural fertility cycle.
The administration of progestin and estrogen into the vaginal wall, and into the bloodstream, creates elevated levels of these two hormones which then act in three ways to prevent pregnancy. In the first instance, the release of eggs from the ovaries is prevented; in the second, cervical mucus is thickened, preventing sperm from swimming very far; and finally, the uterine lining is also thickened, making it less likely to harbor and nourish a fertilized egg.
That is the upside of NuvaRing. On the downside, this third-generation contraceptive causes blood clots that can lead to stroke, heart attack or even death. This, even though studies have shown that NuvaRing is no more effective than first- or second-generation birth control pills and devices. In fact, contraceptive pills using the same NuvaRing ingredients, and developed to help minimize first-generation contraceptive side effects like acne, facial hair or hair loss, weight gain, abdominal pain, loss of libido and moodiness, are no better at birth control than older and more time-honored pills like Ortho Novum, which hit the marketplace in 1963 under the brand names Ortho-Novum 10 and Ortho-Novum 2.
On the less scary side, NuvaRing also causes vaginitis, which – while irritating and disturbing – at least does not lead to effects (stroke and heart attack) that should seldom, if ever, be seen among young women in the prime of life (and health).
Vaginitis is rarely dangerous but the irritation alone is enough to make some women toss their contraceptive rings like a bad can of soup. Whether caused by a bacterium, a yeast infection, or a parasite associated with sexual intercourse (trichomoniasis), vaginitis – while not painful per se – is one of the most annoying ailments on the planet.
Itching, burning discharge, painful urination or pain during intercourse, as well as light bleeding or spotting, create a scenario that finds most young, healthy women tearing out their hair because the symptoms are so interruptive and cause such a negative effect on the overall quality of life. While not usually dangerous, vaginitis for first-time sufferers bears looking into by a medical professional, if only to rule out other causes or more dangerous conditions.
Other causes include taking an antibiotic for another infection (in the ears or lungs, for example), or having uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes – with blood sugars ranging from 180 to 400. A non-functioning or defective thyroid, as seen in patients with Hashimoto’s syndrome, is another cause of vaginitis. Pregnancy can also cause vaginitis, as can endocrine disorders or therapy with corticosteroids, also known as prednisone, which are used to treat everything from brain injury to arthritic inflammation of a joint, including allergic reactions like asthma and hay fever.
The dangers of vaginitis include the fact that women who have it will find their risk for sexually transmitted diseases – including pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID – increasing exponentially. Surgical procedures, including abortions and hysterectomies, apparently also provoke PIDs.
Finally, Candida, or thrush, is the result of an overgrowth of fungi normally kept under control by “friendly” bacteria. However, after taking an antibiotic and destroying these beneficial bacteria, yeast organisms run wild, infecting mucus membranes throughout the body (including those inside the mouth).
Yeasts are relatively harmless, but when vaginal infections occur as a result of bacteria or trichomonaisis, pregnant women may deliver prematurely – sometimes fatally so as far as the fetus is concerned. More likely, these women will deliver babies seriously underweight. The lower limit of acceptable birth weight is 5.5 pounds. Less than that, and serious problems like the failure of the posterior fontanel (a portion of the skull) to close can result in dangerous hematomas. These are accumulations of blood between the exposed brain and the tough layer of skin that covers it before the fontanel is fully developed.
For the more than one million women using the NuvaRing and experiencing symptoms like vaginitis, premature birth and low birth weight, or even stroke and heart attack, the most effective way to approach the problem is finding a NuvaRing injury lawyer to expertly and supportively state your case to the manufacturer, Organon, or to a judge or jury.