Magazine piece raises questions about a convenient birth-control method
“Danger in the Ring,” Vanity Fair, January issue

When her 24-year-old daughter Erika was rushed to an emergency room because of extreme shortness of breath in 2011, a doctor asked Karen Langhart, “Was your daughter using birth control?” reports a Vanity Fair article. Told that Erika had been using a contraceptive device called NuvaRing, the doctor said, “I thought so, because she’s having a pulmonary embolism.” The young woman died several days later.

In the magazine, writer Marie Brenner describes the Langhart case as part of a highly critical story on NuvaRing, whose manufacturer, Merck, is facing thousands of lawsuits, many of them alleging that it causes potentially fatal blood clots. The device’s big selling point is its convenience: A woman inserts a flexible plastic ring into her vagina, where it releases hormones that suppress ovulation, and then replaces it once a month.

The lengthy story describes the “mass-tort” lawyers who are in aggressive pursuit of Merck and the regulatory role of the FDA, which approved the device in 2002 but issued a report in 2011 saying that long-term NuvaRing users were 56 percent more likely to develop blood clots than women using older birth-control pills. Merck executives declined to be interviewed for the article, but the company provided a statement saying that “blood clots have long been known as a risk associated with combined hormonal contraceptives. . . . We remain confident in the safety and efficacy profile of NuvaRing.”

Your own private nirvana

Yoga’s health benefits are widely extolled. But it can be awkward for a beginner to get started, especially someone wary of appearing in public in a yoga tank and leggings. Even experienced practitioners sometimes have problems making it to a scheduled class.

One option: This Canadian Web site, founded by yoga instructor David Procyshyn, offers hundreds of streaming videos, each about an hour long. It also has yoga information and multi-week programs for specific audiences: beginners who want to progress to intermediate level, for example, workouts for office workers, etc. If you’re just starting, take a look at “Melt Into Gratitude,” a gentle introduction to hatha yoga, in which instructor Nicky Jones — doing slow, graceful poses in a spectacular British Columbia coastal setting — repeatedly urges you not to overstress, to do only what’s comfortable. Very peaceful and non-threatening.

NuvaRing’s manufacturer is facing thousands of lawsuits, many of them alleging that the device causes blood clots. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

Also non-threatening is the pricing policy: Pay only if you want to. “Videos and programs aren’t free to create,” the site says. “If you can, please make a contribution.”