Vaginal Ring

What is it?

  • A small, flexible ring that you place in your vagina. It releases the hormones progesterone and oestrogen.

How does it work?

  • The ring stays in place for three weeks out of four. The fourth week is a ring free break during which time you may get your period.
  • Stops ovulation (eggs being released from the ovaries), thickens the mucus at the entrance to the womb preventing sperm getting through and thins the lining of your womb preventing implantation of a fertilised egg.

What’s great about it?

  • Very effective. If used perfectly the ring is >99% effective – only 3 in 1000 women will get pregnant each year. However, ring users often don’t take it correctly or consistently (eg forget to put ring in) and such typical use means more women will fall pregnant (9 in 100).
  • No need to take pills or use something every time you have sex.
  • Its effect on fertility is rapidly reversible.
  • Periods will usually become more regular, lighter and less painful.
  • Pre-menstrual tension and acne may improve. It may also help reduce menopausal symptoms
  • Can protect against fibroids and ovarian cysts.
  • May reduce the risk of cancer of the ovary, uterus and colon.
  • It is not affected if you vomit or have diarrhoea.

What’s not so great about it?

  • No protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) - condoms advised.
  • Small increased risk of heart or stroke disease, thromboses (blood clots) in the legs/lungs, breast cancer and cervical cancer.
  • Can cause temporary side-effects such as headaches, mood change, breast tenderness, bleeding in between periods and vaginal discharge. These may wear off with time.
  • Needs a prescription from a health care provider.
  • Its effectiveness can be reduced if you vomit or have diarrhoea.
  • Women with some medical conditions or taking certain medication are not advised to use it e.g. very overweight; smokers aged 35 or older.

Where can I get it?

  • Sexual Health services.
  • Family planning clinics
  • GP practices