What is the vaginal ring?
The vaginal ring, sometimes known by its brand name, NuvaRing, is a small, flexible ring you place in your vagina. It releases the hormones progestogen and oestrogen.
How does the vaginal ring work?
It stops an egg from being released from the ovaries every month. It also thickens the mucus at the entrance to the womb which stops sperm getting through and thins the lining of your womb making it difficult for a fertilised egg to implant there.
How effective is the vaginal ring?
When used perfectly it’s over 99% effective. When it is used typically, meaning someone might delay putting it in or there’s another issue, 9 in every 100 women will become pregnant in a year 1.
How long does it last?
You use the vaginal ring for 21 days before a 7-day break in which you are still protected against pregnancy.
How do I use it?
You insert the ring into your vagina. If you would like to be protected from pregnancy straight away do this on the first day of your period. You can also insert the ring between day 1 and 5 of your period and be protected from pregnancy. If you start using it on any other day of your cycle you should use condoms or abstain from sex for the first 7 days of using the NuvaRing.
You can use the vaginal ring contraceptive for 21 days. Then take a break for 7 days. During this time, you will still be protected from pregnancy and will have a period or bleed. On the 8th day insert a new ring, even if you’re still bleeding.
There are alternative ways of using the vaginal ring as contraception, talk to your healthcare professional if you would like more information.
Can the vaginal ring fall out?
It’s held in place by the muscles of your vagina, however, in some circumstances it can come out. This can happen after sex or a bowel movement or if your ring wasn’t inserted correctly. As long it hasn’t been out for more than 3 hours you can wash it with lukewarm water and put it back in. You’ll still be protected from pregnancy.
If it’s out for more than 3 hours, and you’re in the first or second week of use, wash with lukewarm water and put it back in. Use other contraception for 7 days. You may need emergency contraception if you’ve had sex in the last few days.
If it’s out for more than 3 hours and you’re in the third week of use, throw it away. You can either start your 7-day break or put a new ring in 2.
If you find your ring falls out regularly you might want to try a different method of contraception.
Things to consider when using NuvaRing
- The NuvaRing does not prevent you from getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) so you may want to use condoms if you consider yourself at risk.
- You will need to have a consultation before being prescribed the vaginal ring to ensure it’s medically suitable for you. This can be done by your GP, at a sexual health service or through the SHL website.
- If you’re over 35 and smoke or gave up within the last year or are very overweight the NuvaRing might not be suitable for you. You could consider the progestogen only pill or long-acting reversible contraception.
- The contraceptive ring may also not be suitable for you if you’ve had, or currently have, other health conditions. During your consultation give as much information as possible about your health and any conditions you have/have had.
- Sometimes the ring might be felt during sex, if this happens it may be in the wrong place and you can move it yourself.
- The NuvaRing can sometimes cause breast tenderness, headaches, nausea and mood swings. These side effects usually stop within a few months.
- There’s a small increased risk of developing blood clots when using the vaginal ring. Your consultation will assess any risk factors related to this.
- There’s a small increased risk of breast and cervical cancers among hormonal contraception users compared to people who don’t use hormonal contraception. This reduces after stopping using the ring.
- You may have unexpected ‘breakthrough’ bleeding in the first few months of using the NuvaRing.
Additional benefits of using the NuvaRing
- Using the vaginal ring may reduce the risk of cancer of the ovary, uterus and colon.
- The contraceptive ring can protect against fibroids and ovarian cysts.
- Monthly bleeds are likely to become lighter and less painful over continued use.
- You can control when you get your monthly bleed. Talk to your healthcare professional for more information.
- Using the vaginal ring may reduce menopausal symptoms.
- It may reduce the risk of recurrent endometriosis after surgery.
- NuvaRing helps with problems associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Where can I get NuvaRing free?
You can get the vaginal ring contraceptive for free at NHS sexual health clinics, contraception clinics and some young people’s services. Some GP surgeries may be able to prescribe it but not all surgeries do.
If you live in an eligible borough you can order NuvaRing free online from SHL. You will take a consultation and can choose to have it delivered or collect it from a LloydsPharmacy branch within an hour of your prescription being approved. Register or Login to learn more.
Other contraception options
If the vaginal ring isn’t right for you, you might be interested in long-acting reversible contraception which include the intrauterine device (IUD), the intrauterine system, the contraceptive implant or the contraceptive injection. Long-acting reversible contraception options are fitted or administered once and then will be effective for between 3 months and 10 years.
There are also other contraceptives available like the vaginal ring that offer a bit more flexibility including the combined pill, progestogen-only (mini) pill and the contraceptive patch.
Reviewed by our clinical team: December 2020 (next review date: April 2022)
1. Source: Sexwise Contraceptive vaginal ring - Contraception - Sexwise
2. Source: NHS Vaginal ring - NHS (www.nhs.uk)