What is the Vaginal Ring?
The vaginal ring, most commonly known as the NuvaRing®, is a soft, flexible ring inserted into the vagina once a month for three weeks. The ring is a reversible form of birth control that steadily releases both estrogen and progestin hormones, similar to the combination pill. The vaginal ring prevents pregnancy but does not protect against sexually transmitted infections, so it should be used with a latex or female condom. The vaginal ring is available prescription only and costs between fifteen and eighty dollars per month.
Vaginal Ring Insertion
The vaginal ring is a self-administered contraceptive. The exact placement of the ring is not critical for it to be effective since it does not work as a barrier. The ring is left in the vagina for three weeks, and remains in place during vaginal intercourse. After the third week, the vaginal ring is removed for one week, during which time the female will usually have her period. At the end of the week, a fresh, new ring is inserted.
Females should follow a checklist when inserting:
1. Insert within the first five days of a female’s menstrual period, or else use a backup method of birth control for the first seven days after insertion.
2. Check the expiration date of the ring package, wash and dry hands.
3. Find a comfortable position either lying down, standing with one leg propped up or squatting.
4. Press the sides together between your thumb and index finger.
5. Insert high up into the vagina. If discomfort is felt, use a finger to push the ring higher up the vagina. The cervix will prevent the ring from getting lost or moving too high up.
7. Remove the ring after three weeks by hooking the ring with a finger and pulling out. Throw the ring in the trash, away from children and pets.
8. After seven days without the ring, be sure to insert a new ring on the same day as the previous insertion (i.e. placing the ring in on Sundays).
The ring may slip out at any point during the three weeks. Rinse with warm water and replace it within three hours to prevent pregnancy. Two months worth of vaginal rings may be used back-to-back to allow the female to skip her menstrual period.
The vaginal ring has very low failure rate. In studies, it has proven to be 99% effective, which is about the same as the birth control pill. The vaginal ring is convenient since it only requires insertion and removal every month. The vaginal ring contains fewer hormones than the average hormonal pill. Many users experience the same benefits as the pill, given as shorter, lighter periods and less acne, bone thinning, and reduced risk of pelvic inflammatory disease. The vaginal ring allows for sexual spontaneity and very few females or their partners report feeling it. It can be removed for up to three hours at a time.
The vaginal ring does not protect against the transmission of HIV or any other STIs. If it must be stored longer than a couple of months, it needs to be refrigerated. Because the walls of the vagina lift and open when sexually aroused, the vaginal ring can sometimes fall out during sex. Be sure to keep track of it!
It may also irritate the vagina or cause an increase in discharge. Side effects can also include breast tenderness, nausea, headaches or breakthrough bleeding. Side effects may be most noticeable within the first few months of use. Be sure to inform your health care provider if you have any heart conditions, blood clots, certain cancers, a history of stroke or heart attack, smoke or may be pregnant.
Last Updated: 23 January 2013.