The NuvaRing is a form of birth control using the combined hormones of estrogen and progestin. It works similar to combined oral contraceptive birth control pills, but the delivery method is different.
How the Ring Works
The birth control ring works through the combination of two hormones. It is used continuously for three weeks, with one week as an "off" week. Women usually have their periods during the off week. At the end of the week, another ring is used.
The Center for Young Women's Health mentions it can be used continuously, allowing women to skip their period week. Instead of leaving the ring out at the end of three weeks, simply replace it with another one. Do not leave the same ring in for four weeks straight, as this may decrease the effectiveness of the ring. Tell the prescribing provider about using the ring continuously in order to get more refills.
The ring itself is inserted into the vagina, as high as it can go while staying comfortable and in place. Unlike vaginal contraceptive film, it does not need to be near the cervix for best protection. The NuvaRing manufacturer website offers a short animation and instruction on how to properly insert and remove the ring.
Effectiveness of Ring
According to reviews of the combined contraceptive vaginal ring, NuvaRing, women who use the ring have the same birth control effectiveness as users of the combined pill. In fact, after one study, women who used the ring were more prone to continue using it after completion versus the pill.
NuvaRing has an effectiveness rate of preventing pregnancy in approximately 99 percent of women who use it properly. This makes it an excellent choice for women who want to avoid pregnancy. However, the ring does not prevent the transmission of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), so a condom should always be used to stop the spread of STDs.
If the ring slips or falls out, it can be gently washed and reinserted. However, if the ring was out for more than three hours, it should be discarded. Users who do not have the ring out for three hours can follow the instructions on the NuvaRing website's Commonly Asked Questions page about how to reinsert it. Take the appropriate action recommended for the situation. A back-up method of contraception may be needed.
Advantages and Disadvantages of NuvaRing
As with any method of birth control, there are advantages and disadvantages of using the NuvaRing. Speak with a doctor about comparing birth control pills with the NuvaRing.
Positives of using the ring as a primary form of birth control include:
- Effective at preventing pregnancy in 99 percent of women
- No pill to remember to take at the same time everyday
- Avoid getting a painful shot
- Enjoy sex without stopping to get protection for unplanned pregnancy
- It contains two hormones, allowing women who experience side effects from progestin-only pills to use the ring without problems
- Acne may be reduced
A few disadvantages can be found when using NuvaRing for birth control. Keep these in mind when speaking with a physician about getting a prescription for the ring:
- Smokers should not use the ring.
- Persons with certain ailments, like clotting issues, high blood pressure, liver or kidney problems, are not good candidates for using the ring. Tell a doctor about all medications and current and past health conditions.
- The ring can slip out.
- Women and men may be able to feel the ring during intercourse.
- Women who use the ring must keep track of when to replace the ring.
While some birth control pills and cancer may have been linked in the past, Planned Parenthood notes that there is no major study proving a link between using hormones, like those found in NuvaRing, with the development of breast cancer.
Common NuvaRing side effects that have been reported include headache, weight gain, nausea, and increased vaginal secretions, irritation, and infection. Women who experience the following more serious effects should contact a healthcare provider immediately:
- Chest pain, coughing up blood, or shortness of breath
- Calf pain
- Symptoms of a heart attack
- Stroke symptoms
- Vision problems
- Yellowing of skin or eyes, especially when combined with other physical problems
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- TSS symptoms (toxic shock syndrome)
- Lumps in breast tissue
- Irregular bleeding or menstrual cycles
- Severe mood changes or swings
- Swelling in feet, ankles or fingers
Be Open with Your Physician
Women who are interested in using NuvaRing should disclose their current medications, past and present medical histories and lifestyle choices to the prescribing doctor to avoid any major complications and side effects.