The vaginal ring (NuvaRing) is made out of plastic (ethylene vinylacetate copolymers) and magnesium stearate.
How the Vaginal ring works
The vaginal contraceptive ring is a small soft plastic ring that you place inside your vagina for three weeks (21 days) at a time. It releases the hormones oestrogen and progesterone into the bloodstream. It prevents pregnancy in three ways – by stopping ovulation, making the fluid in your cervix thicker (which makes it more difficult for sperm to enter the womb), and preventing the lining of your womb thickening enough for a fertilised egg to implant into it.
Your doctor or nurse will do some tests to make sure that you can use the vaginal ring. They check your medical history, make sure that you’re not pregnant and take your blood pressure.
Most women can start using the vaginal ring at any time in their menstrual cycle. If you start using it within 5 days of starting your period you will be protected from pregnancy straight away (if you have a short cycle then speak to your doctor or nurse). At any other time in your cycle you will need to use condoms or avoid sex for 7 days before you are covered. Make sure you read the packet carefully and speak to a health professional if switching from another contraception method.
There are special instructions for starting to use the vaginal ring if you have just had a baby.
You can start using the vaginal ring immediately after an abortion or miscarriage.
You will be prescribed a box of one or three rings by your doctor or nurse. Wash your hands and squeeze the first ring between your thumb and finger and gently insert the tip into your vagina.
Push it into your vagina so it feels comfortable – it should be far enough inside you so that you don’t feel it, towards your cervix, like a tampon.
After 21 days, you remove the vaginal ring and have a seven day ring-free break. In this break you may have a withdrawal bleed (like a period). You then put in a new ring for another 21 days.
You may wish to shorten the break between taking your ring out and starting a new one, or have no break at all to avoid a withdrawal bleed.
How to stop
To stop using the ring, you will need to remove it and not replace it. To remove it, wash your hands and put a finger into your vagina and hook it around the end of the ring and gently pull it out. Put it in the special bag provided and throw it in the bin.
If you want to stop using the ring but do not wish to become pregnant then you might want to consider switching to another form of contraception before you stop.
Check out our survey results to learn about women’s experiences of using the ring.
Things that can go wrong
Sometimes the vaginal ring can accidentally fall out (during sex or naturally), you can forget to take the ring out after three weeks, or you can forget to put a new one in after your seven-day break. What you should do next depends on how long it has been out or in, and where you are in your cycle – check out the NHS advice or read the instructions.
Some medicines and antibiotics (like rifampicin and rifabutin, St John’s wort and anti-epilepsy drugs) make the vaginal ring less effective. Always tell your doctor or pharmacist that you’re using the vaginal ring if you’re prescribed any medication.
Side effects that some women experience include headaches, breast tenderness, nausea, mood swings and changes in sex drive. These are usually temporary and settle after a few months.
Irregular bleeding or spotting is common in the first few months.
The vaginal ring may increase your blood pressure
With any combined type of hormonal contraception that contains oestrogen there is a slightly increased risk of developing blood clots in your veins and arteries. We are developing a full guide to the medical research on the serious and potentially life threatening side effects of contraceptives here.
Use of the vaginal ring is also associated with small increased risks of breast cancer and cervical cancer. These reduce with time after stopping.