NuvaRing is a novel birth control method which employs a plastic ring placed into the vagina for three weeks. After three weeks it is removed and a new one is inserted one week later. Each day it is in place, it releases birth control hormones directly into the vaginal area where it prevents pregnancy.
Many patients prefer birth control devices over pills, as they do not require daily attention. NuvaRing is 99-percent effective at preventing pregnancies, and the majority of NuvaRing users report high satisfaction rates. However, a number of patients have reported severe NuvaRing side effects. Severe NuvaRing side effects include blood clots, stroke, and heart attack. These NuvaRing side effects can prove life-threatening if left untreated and its manufacturer, Merck has faced numerous lawsuits due to injuries caused by NuvaRing.
Nearly 2,000 NuvaRing lawsuits were filed against Merck and original manufacturer, Organon. Plaintiffs alleged that the birth control device caused serious injuries including blood clots, heart attacks, strokes and included several deaths.
In 2014, Merck agreed to settle all claims for a total of $100 million. In mid-2019, less than 100 claims had yet to be settled after some opted out of the agreement.
NuvaRing Blood Clots and Complications
NuvaRing may increase the risk of blood clot formation as hormones released by the device may alter the natural blood clotting chemicals. This may result in increased clot formation, particularly in the deep veins of legs and arms in a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
If these blood clot formed as DVT, dislodge and travel through the body, they may result in life-threatening conditions. Pulmonary embolism (PE) may occur if the blood clot travels to the lungs, heart attacks may occur if blood clot travels to the heart and stroke can occur if a DVT travels to the brain. In rare cases, blood clots in the eye can cause vision problems or blindness.
The following NuvaRing side effects may indicate blood clots and require immediate medical attention:
- Swelling or soreness in the leg or arm
- Warm or red area in the leg or arm
- Chest pain
- Mild fever
- Difficulty breathing
- Cough that may produce blood.
- Tachycardia, or high heart rate
- Difficulty speaking
- Changes in consciousness
- Loss of movement on one side
- Sudden pain
Sudden or severe symptoms should be treated as a medical emergency.
Other NuvaRing Side Effects
NuvaRing is the first vaginal contraceptive ring and was marketed as a substitute for oral contraceptives. While the manufacturers claim that NuvaRing is equally effective to oral contraceptives, there are risks associated with the use of both forms of birth control.
As with many hormonal birth control methods, side effects are not uncommon. The most common NuvaRing side effects are minor and typically do not require medical attention.
Other NuvaRing side effects include:
- Skin rash
- Hair loss
- Weight changes
- Appetite changes
- Bloating and abdominal cramps
- Menstrual cycle changes
- Irregular vaginal spotting or bleeding
- Contact lens intolerance
NuvaRing DVT Research
Research has suggested that compared to other forms of birth control, NuvaRing has a considerably higher risk of causing blood clots. A study was published in 2011 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which linked the birth control device to a possible 56 percent increased risk of blood clots.
The New England Journal of Medicine released a study in 2012 indicating that NuvaRing users had 6 times the likelihood of developing DVT compared to women that do not use any form of hormonal therapy.
By 2014, Merck offered a settlement which was estimated to have included 3,800 people. Some of those who were eligible had already filed lawsuits, others had not. The settlement offers required claimants to complete the claim package by July 21,2014. Merck had reserved about $100 million to settle all of the claims.
Though some plaintiffs opted out of the settlements, no further disclosures were made and no new lawsuits have been announced.
Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA.
- NuvaRing Lawsuits Allege Women Harmed by Birth Control, Lawyers and Settlements (02/2012)
- NuvaRing Prescribing Information, RxList (12/2020)
- Makers of NuvaRing sued over woman’s death, NBC News (07/2010)
- Thrombotic Stroke and Myocardial Infarction with Hormonal Contraception, New England Journal of Medicine (2012)
- Families, Lawsuits, Raise Questions about NuvaRing, CNN (04/2015)
- Merck Settles All NuvaRing Birth Control Injury Cases for $100 Million, Lexis Nexis (2014)