Lisa Ling 'Views' New Birth Control Method
Adele Slaughter, Spotlight Health
With medical adviser Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.
As the youngest co-host on ABC's The View, Lisa Ling is not afraid to
mix it up and challenge the status quo. But when it comes to birth control,
she's playing it safe.
"For me, as the young woman
on the show and coming from a show that discusses so many female issues,"
says Ling, "I just think it is important that women know all of the options
that are available."
And Ling is promoting one of the
latest contraceptive options for women.
"I am using NuvaRing, which
is a contraceptive device that you insert into the vagina," explains Ling.
"It lasts a month, as opposed to the oral contraceptive, the pill, that
you have to take every day. For people like me who have busy lives, it just
makes life a little bit easier because you don't have to remember to take a
NuvaRing works similarly to the
pill but is inserted into the vagina where it releases hormones, estonogestrel
and ethinyl estradiol, for 3 weeks. Women have to remember to remove it once
a month and re-insert it one week later.
"It is easy to put in,"
says Ling, who is a paid spokesperson for NuvaRing. "I don't think it has
ever come out of anyone. It is two inches wide and an eighth of an inch in diameter.
You insert it very discretely, unlike other forms of contraception which have
to be administered by a doctor."
With a predicted 99% success rate, the device can only be prescribed by a
physician and carries many of the same side effects as the pill, which include:
- A higher risk for blood clots, heart attack, and stroke
- Vaginal discharge
"When I first inserted it,
I had a little bit of nausea, just as I did when I started the pill," says
Ling, "but there was no weight gain, and I'm very conscious about that."
"Every patient I have, when
I introduce a new method to them, ask 'Doctor is this going to make me fat?'"
says Westoff, who ran Organon's trials for the NuvaRing and is Medical Director
of Family Planning Clinic at Columbia Presbyterian. "This is a new method that
is neutral with regard to weight."
"I think that the NuvaRing
is better than the pill in many ways," notes Westoff. "Women who find
they have an upset stomach with the pill might do better with this. Also bleeding
patterns were tracked with the women in the study and we found that there was
less spotting and more regular bleeding with the NuvaRing."
"Everybody forgets that pregnancy
is kind of dangerous, and birth control is always safer than pregnancy,"
"We had the opportunity to
get a small number of NuvaRings on an introductory basis from Organon,"
Dr. Mark Nichols, medical director of Planned Parenthood affiliate in Oregon.
"So far the response has been very positive with this method. But it is
too early to give much more than a rough sense of things."
Approximately 60 million women
are in the reproductive age group.
"Forty million of those women
are sexually active and don't want to be pregnant right now," says Westoff..
"Probably 36 million women are using a method but that doesn't mean they're
all happy with their method, or that everybody is using the most effective method."
Of the 6 million pregnancies each
year, doctors estimate that around 3 million are unplanned.
Some women who get pregnant unexpectedly
are not using any birth control method; but for many, the method they were using
failed. The plethora of contraceptive choices for women include:
- Barrier Methods - "The best of the barrier method is the condom,"
says Westoff. "While they're a moderately good contraceptive, they are
the only things we have as prevention for infection."
- Hormonal Methods - "The main birth control method American
women use, separate from sterilization, is hormonal contraception," says
Westoff. "We know hormonal contraception is highly effective, in fact,
99% effective. One of the problems with the pill is that it's just kind of
hard to remember, therefore it does not achieve its theoretical effectiveness."
- Intrauterine Devices - "The IUD's are underutilized in the
US," adds Westoff, "and are highly effective, safe methods."
- Surgical Sterilization - "American women choose sterilization
more than anybody else in the world," says Westoff, "which shows
how serious American women are about protecting themselves. The other thing
it says is that we have a wacky health care insurance system. Since women
cannot get coverage for reversible methods, they have turned to sterilization."
- Traditional methods - Family planning -- coitus interruptus, or
abstinence during fertile times -- can work for extremely motivated couples
living the kind of lifestyle to support the discipline and accuracy needed.
"Accidental pregnancies are
medically dangerous as well as psychologically and morally stressful to people,"
notes Westoff. "People have to decide if an abortion is acceptable, if
they can fit another child into their life. It is something all of my patients
wish to avoid where possible. Something like the NuvaRing can make it easy for
women to be successful preventing pregnancy."
"I think that many women will
not be too crazy with the idea of inserting this device into their vaginas,
but every contraceptive has a downside," says Nichols. "In terms of
the side effect profile, it looks good in terms of the clinical trials. The
vaginal irritation is very low. The hormone levels are lower than birth control
pills so it is hoped that side effects will be less."
Still there is no single method
that will work for every woman. Women who shouldn't take the pill for medical
reasons shouldn't use NuvaRing.
are happy with their current method they should stick with it," says Westoff.
"The big competitor to the
ring will be the patch," says Nichols. "It will be interesting to
see how that falls out. The patch has just arrived and the response has been
positive, but a fair number have had skin reactions to the adhesive itself.
So they cannot be long term users."
Birth control methods and safer
sex practices are separate considerations. Condoms remain the only method that
protects individuals from sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.
"On the show we preach a message of safety," says Ling. "For
safety, you should always use one method in conjunction with condoms."
• NuvaRing Information
FDA-Protection against unintended pregnancy
Ricki Lake talks about teen pregnancy
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Created: 12/5/2002  - Adele Slaughter & Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.