- A small, flexible ring inserted into the vagina once a month.
- It works the same way as the pill, but the hormones enter the body in a different way.
How Does It Work?
- The clear, flexible, plastic ring is inserted into the vaginal canal by the user (not by a doctor or at a clinic).
- Because the vaginal wall is muscular it securely holds the ring in place, just like a tampon stays in place.
- The ring cannot “get lost” in a woman’s body, but if it is uncomfortable it is likely not inserted deep enough into the vaginal canal.
- Similar to the pill, the ring releases a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin.
- The hormones prevent pregnancy before it can occur by: preventing the release of an egg (ovulation), thickening the cervical mucus making it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus, and thinning out the uterine lining so that implantation of egg is unlikely.
- The ring is a very effective reversible method of birth control.
- Fewer than 1 out of every 100 women who use the ring will become pregnant with perfect use.
- The ring requires less user involvement and there is less possibility for user error; therefore, it is slightly more effective than birth control pills.
- Certain medicines or herbal remedies may decrease the effectiveness of the ring. As with any medication, ask your clinician for advice and inform them of all prescribed and over-the-counter medications you are taking.
- Check the expiration date of each ring package before insertion.
- Count the first day of your menstrual period as “day one” and plan to insert the ring between day 1 and day 5 of your cycle.
- Wash hands with soap and water.
- Use your fingers to press the sides of the ring together.
- Insert the vaginal ring gently into the vagina.
- The hormones are released through the vaginal walls so the exact position of the ring doesn’t matter.
- The ring does not need to be removed during vaginal sex.
- Remove it in three weeks on the same day of the week that it was inserted OR four weeks after insertion if you would like to skip your period.
- Hook your finger under the forward rim and gently pull out of the vagina.
- Throw it out in the trash — do not flush.
- During the one-week break, you will usually have your menstrual period. You may still be bleeding when it is time to insert a new ring; this is normal.
- If you choose to skip your period it may take 3-4 months for your body to adjust. Breakthrough bleeding or spotting is common during the adjustment phase.
- Using the vaginal ring is simple, safe, and convenient.
- The vaginal ring protects against pregnancy for one month.
- It does not involve taking a daily pill, require the use of spermicide, or require a “fitting” by a clinician.
- Many women who use the vaginal ring have more regular, lighter, and shorter periods.
- A woman’s ability to become pregnant returns quickly when use of the ring is stopped.
- The vaginal ring does not interrupt sexual activity.
- Decreased risk of: ovarian cysts, ovarian and uterine cancer, iron deficiency, acne, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, and irregular or painful periods.
- Side effects that usually clear up after two or three months of use include: bleeding between periods, weight gain or loss, breast tenderness, nausea, and changes in mood.
- Other possible side effects include increased vaginal discharge and vaginal irritation or infection.
- Serious problems do not occur very often while using hormonal contraceptives.
- Women who use combined hormone contraceptives have a slightly greater chance of certain major disorders than nonusers.
- The most serious is the possibility of blood clots in the legs, lungs, heart, or brain, and/or liver tumors.
- The risks are increased by being over 35, smoking, and having conditions associated with heart disease — such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high levels of cholesterol — and certain inherited conditions that increase the risk of blood clotting.
- Most experts agree that using combined hormone contraception will not increase the overall risk of developing breast cancer — no matter how long a woman uses a combined hormonal contraceptive or even if she has a close relative with breast cancer.
- While serious problems are rare, if you do experience any of the following, contact your clinician as soon as possible: sudden or constant pain or redness and swelling in the leg; pain in the abdomen, chest, or arm; sudden shortness of breath or spitting up blood; severe headaches; eye problems such as blurred or double vision; worsening depression; yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice); unusual heavy bleeding from the vagina; a new lump in your breast.
More information on the vaginal ring