Vaginal Contraceptive Ring


Average Failure Rate: 8%

NuvaRing is a thin, transparent, flexible ring that stays in the vagina, usually around the cervix. The ring is worn continuously for three weeks followed by a week off which triggers menstruation. Each vaginal ring provides one month of birth control, even during the week when the ring is not worn. Obtained by prescription only, the ring slowly releases synthetic estrogen and progestin hormones into the body. The walls of the vagina absorb the hormones and distribute them into the bloodstream. These hormones work by stopping ovulation, thickening cervical mucus as a barrier to sperm, and preventing implantation of the embryo if fertilization occurs. More about how this works...

Effectiveness of the NuvaRing Contraceptive

The ring is thought to be as effective as oral contraceptives. The first time the vaginal ring is used, it is inserted during the first five days of menstruation. A woman should use a backup method for the first week, because the ring is not effective until after seven days of continuous use (unless already using another hormonal method). The effectiveness of a vaginal ring is lowered when taken with certain medications, including antibiotics, St. John's Wort, anti-seizure, tuberculosis, and migraine medications.

Using the NuvaRing Vaginal Contraceptive Ring

The muscles of the vagina keep NuvaRing securely in place, even during exercise or sex. The NuvaRing comes in only one size and fits over the cervix, but unlike vaginal barrier methods, such as the diaphragm, exact placement is not essential. The ring is left in the vagina for three weeks then discarded. The woman then has a period, and seven days later inserts a new ring. A vaginal ring can slip out of the vagina. If this happens, the ring can be washed with cold water and reinserted. If more than three hours pass without wearing the ring, there is an increased chance pregnancy. The vaginal ring must be worn continuously for seven more days to regain effectiveness. Unused vaginal rings should be stored at room temperature, no more than 77° F, and away from direct sunlight.

Side-Effects and Health Risks of the NuvaRing Contraceptive

Common side-effects include yeast infection, vaginal discharge or irritation, upper respiratory tract infection, sinus infection, weight gain, and nausea. Other side-effects include headache, irregular bleeding, breast tenderness, mood changes, and the unpleasant sensation of having a foreign body in the vagina. Like combined oral contraceptives, the vaginal ring is thought to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, especially among smokers. Women with a history of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, headaches or epilepsy, depression, gallbladder or kidney disease, recent major surgery, sensitive vagina, dropped uterus or bladder, rectal prolapse, severe constipation, or who are breastfeeding may not be able to use a vaginal ring. The vaginal ring does not offer any protection from reproductive tract infections, and in fact all hormonal methods appear to increase the risk of acquiring HIV and other STDs from an infected partner. Because the vaginal ring is a newer method of birth control, more long term studies are needed to best document side-effects, health risks, and efficacy of the device.

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