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revised Thursday June 02 2016
healthy sexuality
Birth Control Methods

Vaginal Contraceptive Ring

The vaginal contraceptive ring is a flexible ring that slowly releases low doses of hormones (estrogen and progesterone). It is more commonly known as “The Ring.” You will need a prescription from a doctor to get the ring. One ring is inserted for 21 days, and then taken out for 7 days. During these 7 days, you will get your period.

The ring works the same as birth control pills. The hormones stop the egg from being released each month (ovulation) and by changing the cervical mucous to make it more difficult for sperm to enter the uterus.

How to Use the Vaginal Contraceptive Ring

Inserting the Ring

Always read the instructions that come with the package carefully.

When you buy the ring, it will come from the fridge. You don’t need to put it in the fridge when you get home, but all rings must be used within 3 months from when they were purchased.

Inserting the Ring

Inserting the ring is similar to inserting a tampon – you can either lie down, stand with one foot propped on something (e.g., a toilet) or squat.

You must use a back up method of birth control, such as condoms, for the next 7 days, no matter what day of your cycle you start the ring.

Using the ring for the first time (on the first day of your period):

  • Hold the ring between your thumb and finger and squeeze it together
  • Push the folded ring gently into the vagina as high as you can push it.
  • Leave the ring in for 3 weeks.
  • Take the ring out on the 4th week. You will get your period during this week.

Most women do not feel the ring once it is inside the vagina. If it does feel uncomfortable, push the ring in a little further into the vagina. It cannot be pushed too far because your cervix will block the ring from going further into your body.


When to Use Backup Protection

You should also use a back up birth control method - such as condoms - for 7 days if:

  • Switch from Contraceptive Injections (Depo-Provera) to the ring and you are more than the 13th week from your last needle.
  • Taking any prescribed or over-the-counter medications.
  • Starting the ring (PDF, 94KB)


The ring’s effectiveness rate is 99.7% in preventing pregnancy when used correctly.

However, with typical use, the effectiveness rate is 92%.* This means that eight out of 100 women using the ring for one year will get pregnant.*

* source: The Mayo Clinic


Advantages & Disadvantages



  • Less painful menstrual periods and bleeding.
  • More regular periods.
  • Less acne.
  • Reduced risk of cancer of the ovaries and cervix.
  • Doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections or HIV.
  • A doctor has to prescribe the nuvaring.
  • If you start the nuvaring on any day other than the first day of your period, you must use a backup method of birth control for 7 days.
  • Some women suffer side effects or more serious complications.

Cautions & Things to Consider

Side Effects

When you first start the nuvaring, some common side effects include:

  • Upset stomach or nausea.
  • Weight gain/loss.
  • Headaches.
  • Sore breasts.
  • Less interest in sex.
  • Mood swings.
  • Increased vaginal discharge.
  • Break through bleeding.

These side effects will usually disappear in the first few months.

Smoking and the Nuvaring

Smoking is not recommended while using the nuvaring. Although rare, women who use the ring and smoke have a slightly higher chance of developing a blood clot.

Signs of blood clot include:

  • Severe abdominal or chest pain.
  • Severe cough or shortness of breath.
  • Severe headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Eye problems such vision loss or blurring.
  • Speech problems such as slurring.
  • Severe leg pain in the calf or thigh.
  • Weakness or numbness on one side of your body.

If you have any of these signs, take out the nuvaring and go to a hospital immediately.


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Revised: Thursday June 02 2016

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