Pinching a flexible contraceptive ring

The vaginal ring is a soft plastic ring put in the vagina.

It releases two hormones (oestrogen and progestogen) which are very similar to women's own hormones.

The ring is changed every three weeks, with a week off.

Effectiveness

Positives

  • Easy to use – one ring lasts three weeks
  • It doesn’t interrupt sex
  • The ring is good at preventing pregnancy
  • It helps to make periods lighter and less painful
  • Periods will usually be very regular
  • Women can control when their period will come
  • The ring can help with acne and spots
  • Some women get bigger breasts
  • It protects against womb and ovarian cancer and pelvic inflammatory disease

Negatives

  • Need to remember once a month

Possible side effects when first starting:

  • Spotting (bleeding in between periods)
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Sore breasts

Other possible side effects:

  • Changes in mood or sex drive
  • Feeling more hungry

Extremely rare side effects:

  • Blood clots in the legs or lungs (2 in 10,000 women)

The ring is easy to put in

It finds a comfortable position, and doesn't need to be put anywhere particular in the vagina. It's just a different way of absorbing the hormones

Most women don’t put on weight

Sometimes the ring makes women feel more hungry. Most women stay the same weight – 1 in 10 women put on weight, and 1 in 10 lose weight while they are on the ring

You don’t need a break from hormones

It’s safe to use from teenage to the menopause (for most women)

The ring doesn’t suit everyone

Some women love it, and some might experience moodiness, hunger, nausea, or less desire for sex

Women don’t need to have a period once a month, and women can control when they have a period

It’s safe to miss periods by using several rings in a row without a break –blood doesn’t build up inside since the womb lining stays thin, and it can help women feel more energetic if they are not losing iron every month. Find out more about periods here

The ring does not cause infertility

When women come off the ring, fertility returns to normal, meaning that it’s possible to get pregnant within a few days or weeks. It’s important to know that it’s less easy to get pregnant as women get older – it’s harder to get pregnant over the age of 35. Find out more about infertility here

Many women are on the ring for its benefits, even if they don't need it for contraception

Many women find the ring fantastic for controlling period pain, regulate periods, and to level out the moodiness of premenstrual tension

What's right for you?

Good to know

The ring is easy to use - it's gently put into the vagina, and it finds a comfortable position. It doesn't need to be put over the cervix (like the diagphragm)

If you want to miss a period, it’s safe to use rings one after another with no break.

How much bother is the ring?

Women put the vaginal ring into their vagina for three weeks, followed by a ring-free week on the fourth week. A period will usually come during the fourth week, meaning that it’s easy to predict when a period is coming. 

If the ring is used properly it’s really effective, but it can be hard to remember to start using a new one. 

You can get the ring from a GP, family planning/contraception clinics, sexual health clinics. Find out more about where to get the ring here

How effective is the ring?

If the ring is used properly, without taking other medications that could make it less effective, it is more than 99% effective – meaning that if 100 women use the ring for a year, less than one will have an unplanned pregnancy.  However, allowing for the ups and downs of life, the average user can expect it to be around 92% effective – meaning that out of 100 women using the ring for a year, around 8 will have an unplanned pregnancy. 

How does it work?

Using the ring temporarily stops the ovaries from releasing an egg each month.  It also thickens the fluid around the neck of the womb (which stops sperm getting to an egg), and makes the lining of the womb thinner so that a fertilised egg can’t settle and grow. 

If you forget to use a new ring, or if it comes out, you might need an emergency pill, or an emergency copper coil (IUD) (Further information here)

What's right for you?