What is the ring?
The ring is a removable, very effective form of birth control, although it does not prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The small and bendable ring is infused with estrogen and progesterone and inserted into the vagina every month, and then left there for three weeks. After three weeks it is removed for one week and then your period occurs.
Studies show that fewer than one out of 100 women who use the ring become pregnant with consistent and correct use.
How does it work?
The ring delivers estrogen and progestin (about the same amount as very low-dose birth control pills) to prevent pregnancy for the duration of one month. These hormones can prevent ovulation (release of an egg), and they sometimes cause the mucus on the cervix (the tip of the uterus) to become thicker, which prevents a sperm and an egg from joining. The hormones can sometimes also prevent a fertilized egg's implantation in the uterus, which would result in pregnancy.
How is it used?
The ring is inserted into the vagina and then removed exactly three weeks later on that same day of the week. There is no applicator for the ring, but it is flexible and can be inserted and removed with the fingers. After the ring is removed, the woman menstruates, and then exactly one week after removal, a new ring is inserted.
Does it protect against STIs?
No. The ring only protects against pregnancy. The only birth control that protects against STIs is a condom or abstinence.
What are the benefits of use?
- The possibility of predictable and lighter menstrual periods
- Prevention of tubal pregnancy (pregnancy in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus -- this can be fatal for both the fetus and the mother if not detected early)
- Possible decreased risk of gynecologic cancer (such as cancer of the ovaries or uterus)
- Fewer premenstrual discomforts such as bloating, cramps and irritability
- Prevention of osteoporosis (bone density loss that can occur later in life)
- Can be an option for women with menstrually related migraines
These are similar to the side effects seen with birth control pills, and usually disappear within the first two to three months.
- Change in weight
- Tender breasts
- Alteration in mood
- Irregular bleeding
These occur rarely, and more often when someone who uses the ring also uses hormone pills or other hormone contraceptives at the same time.
- Blood clots
- Tumors of the liver
- Elevated blood pressure
Where can I get the ring?
In order to get the ring you have to visit your doctor, who will help you decide if this is the best method of birth control for you. The doctor can then give you a prescription for the ring.
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Author: Katie Ransohoff, High School student writer
Reviewed by the Web Content Committee of PAMF
Additional Outside Sources
Below are sources PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Planned Parenthood. Birth Control [Online].
womenshealth.gov Birth Control Fact Sheets [Online].