If you have enough babies for the moment, or you’re just not in that moment yet, there are many birth control options in the market. The vaginal ring is one of them.
It’s one of the youngest ones – it hasn’t been in the market for long, but it already has lots of popularities as a valid alternative to the birth control pill and the hormonal IUD.
Also known as the nuva ring or the birth control ring, the vaginal ring is a form of hormonal birth control with a 99% of effectiveness. But let’s take a closer look at what it is, how it works, and its pros and cons.
What’s the vaginal ring? Is it effective?
The name itself is quite descriptive: the vaginal ring is a soft plastic ring that is placed inside the vagina and works as a hormonal birth control method. The most used brand is NuvaRing, which is the one that is commercialised in most countries.
Once it’s placed inside the vagina, the ring releases progesterone and oestrogen – the same hormones used by the birth control pill. These hormones manage to prevent ovulation from happening so conception isn’t possible. Hormonal birth control methods are usually very effective, and the vaginal ring isn’t an exception. If used correctly (and there’s more on that below these lines), it will prevent an unwanted pregnancy in approximately 99% of cases. Its failure rate with perfect use is 0,3% and only 9% if you use it incorrectly.
How does it work?
As we’ve said, the vaginal ring is placed inside the vagina. However, we could say that its similarities with the diaphragm end here: the diaphragm is a barrier birth control method and the vaginal ring is a hormonal one, which means its effectiveness is due to the hormones that it releases and not due to it being placed in the correct spot.
The vaginal ring will remain in your vagina for 21 days, then, you ned to remove it and throw it away. After one use, the birth control ring has released the hormones it contains, so you will need a new one for the next cycle, which will start 7 days after you remove it.
Unlike the birth control pill, you can start using the vaginal ring any time during your menstrual cycle, but you won’t be protected right away. You will be protected the very first day you place the ring if you do so the first day of your menstrual cycle, that is, the first day of your period. That is what the producers of the vaginal ring say, but there is better news from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare: they say that it is safe to start using it up to day 5 of your menstrual cycle, since up until that moment, the ring is capable of supressing ovulation. As usual, the best thing to do here is to talk about it with your doctor.
How can I insert it?
Inserting the vaginal ring is easier than with a diaphragm, since it doesn’t need to cover your cervix to work. Clean your hands carefully and grab the ring with your thumb and another finger. Squeeze it lightly and put the tip in your vagina. Then push it up and keep doing so until you feel comfortable. The only thing you need to consider is your own comfort, since there isn’t a specific place where it needs to be in order to work.
If you can feel the vaginal ring once you’ve inserted it, try pushing it a bit more. However, keep in mind that you need to be able to touch it – otherwise, how would you remove it in day 21?
What happens if I forget to put a new vaginal ring the day I had to?
In that case, you’ll need to proceed as you did the first time you started using it. Put a new one in and use some additional method of contraception for seven days – the condom would be a good option. If you’ve had sex soon before, and after the 7 safe days free of vaginal ring are over, talk to your doctor. You may need emergency contraception, like a IUD or the morning after pill.
What are the advantages of the vaginal ring?
As we’ve said, the vaginal ring is quite a young birth control method that has become very popular. Here’s why:
- Of course, its 99% effectiveness.
- It’s easy to use: most women find the insertion and extraction to be uncomplicated.
- You can ‘forget’ about it, at least for three weeks: unlike the pill, you don’t need to remember about it every day. However, make sure to set some alarms for the day you have to remove it and the day you have to insert a new one if you’re the absent-minded kind!
- It doesn’t interrupt sex, like the condom, for instance, because the ring is there all the time.
- You can be free of worries even with diarrhoea or vomiting: unlike the pill, the vaginal ring’s effectiveness will not be affected!
And the disadvantages?
Of course, there are some drawbacks as well regarding the vaginal ring. Before choosing this birth control method, consider the following:
- You need to change it every month: the vaginal ring lasts 21 days exactly, and you’ll need to place a new one 7 days after that. No, you don’t need to be as attentive as with the birth control pill, but it still requires more organisation than the IUD, for example.
- It doesn’t protect from STDs: The ring only prevents ovulation, so you will still be at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. If you have different sexual partners, you may want to use the condom instead.
- There can be some side effects: Some women have more vaginal discharge and can experience sore breasts and headaches. There are also some reported cases of thrombosis when using the ring, that is, the development of a blood clot. However, this is very rare.
- It can come out on its own: but you shouldn’t worry if this happens. You can rinse it with water and insert it again.
Can I use it after giving birth? And if I have a miscarriage?
Yes, you can use the vaginal ring in both cases. After a miscarriage or an abortion, you can start using it immediately, but you will have to wait at least 21 days after giving birth.
Is there any situation or condition that would prevent me from using the vaginal ring?
Unfortunately, yes. The ring may not be suitable for you if any of the following situations apply, so make sure to talk to your doctor if you identify with any of the following statements:
- You have high blood pressure, heart or circulatory problems, or have suffered from a blood clot
- You have severe migraines
- You have diabetes
- You have had breast cancer in the last 5 years
- You are overweight
- You are 35 or older and smoke or have recently stopped doing it.
Besides, there are some medications that aren’t compatible with the vaginal ring, so if you are being treated, talk to your doctor before using it.
So, what do you think of the vaginal ring? Have you ever used it? If you’re still not sure about choosing it as your birth control method, remember that there are other kinds available, such as the condom, the birth control patch or the IUD.