The vaginal ring is a soft plastic ring put in the vagina.
It releases two hormones (oestrogen and progestogen) which are very similar to the body's own hormones.
The ring is changed every three weeks, with a week off.
- 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
- Easy to know and to control when a period will come
- The ring can help with acne
- Some users notice (and like) having bigger breasts
- It can help treat symptoms of Endometriosis, PCOS and Menopause
- It protects against womb, ovarian cancer and colorectal cancer
- Need to remember once a month
- No protection against STIs
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 (5-12 in 10,000)
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 people don’t put on weight
It can make some people feel more hungry. Most stay the same weight – 1 in 10 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 your teenage years up to the age of 50 (for most people)
The ring doesn’t suit everyone
Some people love it, and some might experience moodiness, hunger, nausea, or less desire for sex
The body doesn't need to have a period once a month, and you can control when you 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 people feel more energetic if they are not losing iron every month. Find out more about periods here
The ring does not cause infertility
When you 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 you get older – it’s harder to get pregnant over the age of 35. Find out more about infertility here
Lots of people are on the ring for its benefits, even if they don't need it for contraception
Even if they don't need it for contraception. Many find the ring fantastic for controlling period pain, and to level out the moodiness of premenstrual tension. The ring is also used to treat some of the symptoms associated with Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
The ring can also be used to treat menopausal symptoms, like hot flushes and vaginal dryness in people under 50.
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. Using the ring back to back can also help avoid some pre-menstrual symptoms e.g. bloating, headache, tiredness, period pain, and mood changes.
How much bother is the ring?
You put the vaginal ring into the 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 people 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 91% effective – meaning that out of 100 people using the ring for a year, around 9 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.