Birth control, such as NuvaRing, has been linked to chronic headaches, blindness, or other complications of Benign Intracranial Hypertension (BIH). Experts warn that certain types of birth control are a risk-factor for BIH.
What is NuvaRing?
NuvaRing, manufactured by Merck & Co. and approved in 2001, was one of the first types of birth control to contain a combination of estrogen (ethinyl estradiol) and a new type of progestin called drospirenone.
Benign intracranial hypertension (BIH) occurs when something interferes with the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in and out of the skull. No one knows what causes BIH, but they do know it is not “benign” — BIH can damage the optic nerves and cause incurable blindness.
Complications of BIH may include:
- Headaches and migraines
- Vision problems
- Decreased peripheral vision
- Blurry vision
- Enlargement of the blind spot
- And more
NuvaRing and BIH
There are no studies proving a cause-and-effect relationship between NuvaRing and BIH. However, there is a growing body of scientific evidence linking other types of hormonal birth control with this side effect.
In the early 1990s, a study found over 50 cases associated with Norplanon, a levonorgestrel-containing implant. Lawsuits have also been filed against Bayer by women who were diagnosed with BIH after using Mirena. Currently, health experts warn that birth control is a possible risk-factor for BIH.
NuvaRing Blood Clots
Blood clots are 6.5-times more likely to occur in women who use vaginal rings, according to a study published in 2012 by the British Medical Journal. Blood clots in the brain are a potential cause of secondary intracranial hypertension, a condition with identical symptoms and complications as BIH.
The Prescribing Information for NuvaRing also recommends talking to a doctor and having a medical evaluation for headaches that are severe or persistent. Headaches are estimated to affect 11.2% of women on NuvaRing, according to clinical trials. About 90% of women with BIH also suffer from headaches. The conditions may or may not be related.