Everything you need to know about the vaginal ring

This vaginal ring might look simple - but wow, it's effective!

The vaginal ring, AKA NuvaRing, is the dark horse of contraception – and one that definitely doesn’t get spoken about enough. It’s simple, easy to use and doesn’t beat around the bush. This little thing may look simple but does a great job of protecting you from those pesky little sperms.

What is the vaginal ring (NuvaRing)?

The vaginal ring is a safe and convenient method of birth control, which is 99% effective if used correctly. It is a small soft plastic ring that you place inside your vagina and can stay in for several weeks at a time. The contraceptive ring is just over 5cm in diameter and contains two hormones, oestrogen and progestogen, similar to the combined pill and contraceptive patch. These two hormones have an effect on your body which work to prevent you from becoming pregnant. The ring has other benefits too; in fact, 75% of women say that they have lighter periods once using the ring.

How does the vaginal contraceptive ring work?

The vaginal ring works to prevent pregnancy in not one, not two, but three ways:

  • The main way that this contraception stops you from getting pregnant is by changing the body’s hormonal balance so that your ovaries do not produce an egg (ovulate)
  • It causes the mucus made by the neck of the womb (cervix) to thicken and form a mucous plug. This makes it difficult for sperm to get through to the womb (uterus) to fertilise any egg that might have been released
  • It also makes the lining of the womb thinner, which reduces the chances of a fertilised egg becoming attached to the womb

the vaginal ring contraception

How to insert a vaginal ring

You’ll need to start with a visit to your doctor or nurse, where they will take some tests to make sure you can have the vaginal ring. They’ll check your medical history, ask what other medication you are on, make sure you’re not pregnant and take your weight and blood pressure. Once you’ve passed the test – hopefully with flying colours – you’ll be prescribed a box of either one or three rings.

Before insertion, be sure to wash your hands. You can then start by squeezing the first ring between your thumb and finger and gently inserting the tip into your vagina, then pushing the whole ring in. Make sure you push the ring into a position that it feels comfortable – it should be far enough inside that you can’t feel it. After 21 days, you must remove the ring and have a seven-day ring-free break; it’s very common that during this break you may have a bleed. You then need to put in a new vaginal ring for another 21 days.

You can start using the contraceptive vaginal ring at any time in your period cycle. If you fit on the first day of your cycle, you will be protected from pregnancy straight away. However, it’s important to be mindful of the fact that if it’s fitted at any other time in your cycle then you’ll need to use another form of contraception for 7 days – better safe than sorry, kids!

How is the vaginal ring removed?

To stop using the vaginal ring (NuvaRing), you will need to remove it and not replace it. To remove it, place one finger into the vagina, hook the finger under the ring, and gently pull it out. Put it in the special bag provided and throw it in the bin.

Check out our survey results to see how long it took women’s cycles to return to ‘normal’ after they stopped using the vaginal ring, and read about the after-effects they’ve experienced.

Pros and cons of the vaginal ring

Pros

  • You don’t have to insert it every day
  • The ring isn’t affected if you vomit or have diarrhoea
  • It may help with premenstrual symptoms
  • Period-type bleeding usually becomes lighter, more regular and less painful
  • It has no long-term effect on your fertility

Cons

  • The ring may accidentally fall out
  • You can forget to take the ring out after 3 weeks
  • You can forget to put in a new one after your 7-day break
  • Slightly increased risk of developing blood clots in your veins and arteries
  • It doesn’t protect against STI’s

Who should use the vaginal ring?

  • Women wanting contraception that doesn’t need to be remembered every day
  • Women that want their bleeds more regular, lighter and less painful
  • Women that don’t want interference during sex
  • Women who want a form of contraception that isn’t affected by vomiting or diarrhoea

Who shouldn’t use it?

  • Women that have had a blood clot in a vein or artery
  • Women who have had heart or circulatory problems, including high blood pressure
  • Women who are 35 or older and smoke, or have stopped smoking in the past year
  • Women that have had breast cancer in the past 5 years

contraceptive vaginal ring

Where can I get the vaginal ring?

The great thing about this vaginal ring is that it’s super easy to access and is available from contraception clinics, sexual health clinics, GPs surgeries and young people’s services.

When getting your prescription, you will only be able to get a four-month supply to see how you get on; you will only need to return for further supplies and to have your blood pressure checked.

If you’re not sure where you can get it from, check out your nearest sexual health clinic.

The contraceptive vaginal ring is super simple and easy to use. It’s great for busy women that don’t have time to be worrying about whether they’ve taken their contraception that day, as well as girls that really don’t want a contraceptive that kills the mood. However, if you’re someone that doesn’t think they could get to grips with inserting it themselves, or likes the idea of having something that lasts a couple of months, then this might not be the one for you!

Not sure if the vaginal ring is right for you? Check out our guides to additional contraceptives available including the Natural Cycles app and female condom.

This guide was brought to you by The Lowdown. We are the world’s first contraception review platform, providing real-life experiences from thousands of reviews collected from our community of men and women.

Why not leave us a review of your contraceptive experience? Whether you’ve got good things to say about the Mirena coil or had trouble with implant removal, we want to hear about it! Tell us about your experience and help people around the world find the right method for them.