Vaginal Ring for Birth Control

What Is a Vaginal Ring?

A vaginal ring is a birth control option for women. It’s a small, flexible contraceptive ring, about the size of a silver dollar. There are two options available at this time, Annovera and NuvaRing.



How Does the Vaginal Ring Work?

The vaginal ring contains the same hormones as many birth control pills. You put it in your vagina, where it sends a steady, low dose of hormones into your system. There are two ways to use it:

Cyclic use. Insert it and leave it in place it for 3 weeks, then remove it for 1 week, during which you have a period. If you use NuvaRing, you’ll put a new ring in at the end of week 4. If you use Annovera, you’ll use the same device for a year. Remove, wash, and store it during your period.

Continuous use. Leave the ring in for 4 weeks, then put a new one in. This is what’s called an off-label use. Your doctor might suggest it if you want fewer days of bleeding and maximum protection.



How to Use a Vaginal Ring

It’s similar to using a tampon. Follow these steps:

  • Wash and dry your hands.
  • Lie down with your knees bent, squat, or stand with one leg on a chair.
  • Open the foil and remove the ring. If you use disposable rings, you can save the foil to throw the ring away in later.
  • Hold the ring between your thumb and index finger.
  • Pinch the sides together so they touch in the center.
  • Insert the ring as far into your vagina as it will go.
  • NuvaRing makes a tampon-like applicator you can order to make inserting it easier. Or you can put the ring in an empty tampon applicator.



How Effective Is a Vaginal Ring?

The vaginal ring prevents pregnancy 96%-99% of the time when you use it correctly. That means only 1 to 4 women out of 100 who use it would accidentally get pregnant.



Side Effects of the Vaginal Ring

The most common ones are:

  • Headache
  • Weight gain
  • Nausea
  • Breast tenderness
  • Vaginal irritation



Who Shouldn’t Use the Vaginal Ring?

This product isn’t a good option if you:

  • Have a history of blood clots, heart attack, or stroke
  • Have breast cancer or other hormone-sensitive cancers
  • Are pregnant or think you might be
  • Are older than 35 and smoke cigarettes
  • Have hepatitis or liver problems
  • Have high blood pressure that isn’t controlled
  • Women who have migraines should talk with their doctor.



Vaginal Ring Risks

You might be more likely to get:

  • Blood clots
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Toxic shock syndrome



Vaginal Rink Advantages

The ring gets high marks for:

  • Ease of use
  • Safety
  • Effectiveness
  • Not having to interrupt sex to put it in
  • Privacy — it’s your choice to tell your partner
  • Potential to ease menstrual cramps and acne
  • Bone-strengthening effects



Does the Vaginal Ring Protect Against Sexually Transmitted Diseases?

No. The male condom provides the best protection from most STDs.

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