No-Hassle Birth Control
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No-Hassle Birth Control

Today's options make the pill seem nearly prehistoric.

Good news for birth control pill users

There are several new contraceptives that deliver hormones much like the pill, but in a way that is longer lasting and that doesn't require taking a daily dose. You can wear your contraception where nobody can see it or get a dose from your doctor once a month. If your insurance company covers birth control pills, they will probably also cover these options, which, like the pill, are not recommended for women who are prone to blood clots, have high blood pressure, or are over 35 and smoke.

The Ring (NuvaRing)

What is it? A flexible vinyl ring that you insert into your vagina by hand. How does it work? Once in place, the ring will steadily release hormones similar to those in the pill, and you can forget about it for three weeks -- 85 percent of women and 71 percent of men say that they can't feel the ring during sex. After three weeks, remove the ring, and you'll get your period. Don't use it if you have weakened pelvic floor muscles, which sometimes result from vaginal childbirth. In extreme cases, the ring may come out inadvertently, explains Petra Polasek, MD, a gynecologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Cost: $30 to $35 a month

The Patch (Ortho Evra)

What is it? A thin, square patch that sticks directly to your skin -- on your upper arm, torso, abdomen, or hip. (It's water resistant, so it will stay on while you shower or bathe.) How does it work? You apply a new one every week for three weeks. On the fourth week, when you go patch-free, you'll get your period. "It's seven pills in a patch," explains Dr. Polasek. The patch works by sending hormones directly into your bloodstream. Don't use the patch if you weigh more than 198 pounds, as clinical studies have not found the patch to be effective at that weight. Cost: $25 to $40 a month

The Shot (Depo-Provera)

What is it? A hormone injection in your arm or hip that you get from your doctor every three months. How does it work? Because of the type of hormone used, your period may become lighter, or disappear altogether. Don't use it if you're prone to depression or headaches, because the hormone used can aggravate these conditions. You also shouldn't use this option if you want to get pregnant in the near future -- the effects of the shot can take months to wear off completely. Cost: $50 every three months

Mirena

What is it? A T-shaped soft plastic device that releases hormones into your uterus. How does it work? If you can't take the pill for medical reasons, consider Mirena. Because only a trace of hormones end up in your bloodstream, Mirena can, in some cases, be used by women who can't take the pill. A doctor inserts the device into your uterus using a slim plastic applicator, in a procedure that takes only a few minutes; it is no more invasive than a pelvic exam. (You may feel some cramping during insertion, or immediately afterward.) Mirena works to prevent pregnancy by thinning your uterine lining and inhibiting sperm movement. It can stay in for up to five years, during which time you'll probably continue to get your period. It's as effective as the pill. Don't use it if you've got baby plans in the next year or two -- though you'll be able to conceive if you have the device removed, Mirena is too expensive for short-term pregnancy prevention. Cost: Approximately $550 to $600 every five years

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