- Of 100 women who use this method each year, nine may become pregnant.
- The risk of pregnancy is lower in women who use the ring correctly, which means putting it in place and leaving it there for three weeks, removing it for exactly one week, and then inserting a new ring.
What is the birth control vaginal ring?
The birth control vaginal ring is a small, flexible, plastic ring that is inserted in the vagina. The ring contains the same hormones (progestin and estrogen) found in most birth control pills.
The hormones in the ring are absorbed into the bloodstream from the walls of the vagina and prevent pregnancy by keeping the ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also cause cervical mucus to thicken, which keeps sperm from meeting and fertilizing an egg. The vaginal ring must be replaced every month.
How do I use it?
The vaginal ring is easy to use. Squeeze the ring between your thumb and index finger and gently push it into your vagina. When you first begin using the ring, use back-up birth control in addition to the ring, like a condom, for the first seven days after you insert the vaginal ring.
It is important to keep track of when the ring is inserted and removed. Leave the ring in place for three weeks (21 days), and then remove it for one week (seven days). Your period will occur during the ring-free week. After the off week, start over and put a new ring in the vagina for three weeks. The birth control ring may be effective even if left in for longer than 21 days.
If the ring falls out for any reason and you are not able to put it back within three hours, replace it and use another birth control method (like a condom) until the ring has been in place for seven days in a row.
Discuss your medical history with your healthcare provider before using the ring and let him or her know if you develop any side effects.
How effective is it?
Of 100 women who use this method each year, about nine may become pregnant.
The risk of pregnancy is much lower for women who use the vaginal ring correctly, which means putting it in place and leaving it there for three weeks, removing it for exactly one week, and then inserting a new ring. Certain medications such as rifampin (an antibiotic taken to treat tuberculosis), some types of anticonvulsants (taken for seizures), some antiretroviral medications (taken for HIV), and supplements (such as St. John’s Wort) may make the ring less effective.
Talk with your healthcare provider if you have any questions about using the ring.
How do I get it?
You may need a prescription from your healthcare provider, depending on the state where you are getting the vaginal ring. Once you have a prescription, vaginal rings can be purchased at pharmacies or obtained from health centers, including family planning centers.
Advantages of the vaginal ring
- The ring is easy to use.
- It is safe and works well in preventing pregnancy; using the vaginal ring means you do not have to think about birth control when you want to have sex.
- Your periods may be lighter when using the ring.
- The ring may offer benefits that include fewer menstrual cramps, less acne, and stronger bones.
- It is private. It is your choice if your partner knows about it.
Drawbacks of the vaginal ring
- The ring does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV. Always use a condom to reduce the risk of STDs.
- It requires a visit to a healthcare provider for a prescription.
- Certain medications such as rifampin (an antibiotic taken to treat tuberculosis) some types of anticonvulsants (taken for seizures), some antiretroviral medications (taken for HIV), and supplements (such as St. John’s Wort) may make the ring less effective.
- Some women experience increased vaginal discharge, discomfort in the vagina, and mild irritation.
- There is a very slight increased risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare but potentially life-threatening condition.
- Like the combined birth control pill, use of the ring may increase the risk of blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes. This risk is higher in women who are very overweight.
- Birth Control: Medicines To Help You
- Hatcher, R. A., Trussell, J., Nelson, A. L., Cates, W., Kowal, D., & Policar, M. (2011). Contraceptive technology (20th rev. ed.). Contraceptive Technology Communications.
- Types of Birth Control
- Unintended Pregnancy
- United States Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use, 2016
Did You Know? (Vaginal Ring)
Content last reviewed on May 5, 2019