The vaginal contraceptive ring is a relatively new contraceptive option for women who don't want the hassle of taking a pill every day. Similarly to the contraceptive patch, the vaginal ring also releases a slow dose of the synthetic hormones oestrogen and progestogen over time.
It's a small, thin, flexible ring that you insert into your vagina, where it remains for three weeks. After 21 days you need to take the ring out, and it's during the next seven days that you'll have your period. The ring is so effective that it keeps you protected from pregnancy during this week too. Today approximately 1.5 million women use the NuvaRing in 32 countries across the world.
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The NuvaRing works in a similar way to the combined pill. The oestrogen in the NuvaRing stops your ovaries from releasing an egg, and the progestogen thickens the cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to reach the womb.
The vaginal contraceptive ring is proven to have an effect on the womb lining, but there is no evidence to suggest this helps prevent conception.
The vaginal contraceptive ring is simple to use. You take the ring out of the foil patch, squeeze it between your thumb and index finger and insert it into your vagina. To remove it, you just hook your finger under the forward rim, or hold it between your index and middle finger, and gently pull it out.
The position of the ring doesn’t matter, because it’ll work well regardless of where you place it inside your vagina. This means you can remove and re-insert it as often as necessary to ensure it’s comfortable.
Perhaps the biggest advantage is that the NuvaRing offers over 99% protection from pregnancy but you only need to use it once a month.
You can insert and remove the ring yourself. Not only is this more convenient, it’s also preferred by women who feel uncomfortable visiting their doctor. Being able to remove it yourself is very helpful if you develop severe side effects, because you can just pull it out if you experience a negative reaction. This is unlike most other long-acting reversible contraceptives which either have to be removed by the doctor (IUDs and IUSs), or can’t be removed (contraceptive injection) so you’re stuck with side effects for weeks or until you can see a doctor.
Most people don’t notice the NuvaRing when they have sex. You can remove the NuvaRing when you have sex if you’d prefer, but it can’t stay out for longer than three hours or it won't be as effective.
The NuvaRing is proven to improve acne, alleviate menstrual cramps, and offer protection from developing pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cysts or uterine and ovarian cancers.
Sometimes the NuvaRing can fall out. The muscles in your body should keep the vaginal contraceptive ring in place, even when you exercise and bathe. If it does fall out, and it’s been out for less than three hours, you can rinse it with lukewarm water and reinsert it. If it’s out any longer, you should rinse it, re-insert it and use another contraceptive for seven days.
If you want to buy a few months’ supply of the vaginal contraceptive ring, you must keep them in the fridge. The contraceptive ring will expire after four months if you don’t store it properly. You should either put your excess supply in the fridge, or buy a three-month supply at a time.
The vaginal contraceptive ring can cause some vaginal discomfort in some women, and is known to cause a range of side effects listed below. The dosage of hormones is highest in the NuvaRing than most other hormonal contraceptives, which means you’re likely to experience more frequent or stronger side effects with this contraceptive option.
The NuvaRing can commonly cause abdominal pain, vaginal discomfort, genital itching, reduced libido and weight gain. It can also cause uncommon side effects ranging from disturbed vision, dizziness and mood changes to a swollen abdomen, pain or bleeding during intercourse or when urinating, back pain and muscle spasms.
A historic or existing case of certain conditions may make it unsafe for you to use the NuvaRing, including a heart attack or stroke, blood clots, high blood pressure, and heart valve or rhythm disorders.
The contraceptive ring is only available with a prescription, which means that a doctor will need to assess your medical history and decide that it’s safe for you to use.