A vaginal ring is a hormonal contraceptive (birth control) device for women. It’s a flexible, latex-free plastic ring that is inserted into the vagina. A vaginal ring comprises the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which are released over a period of 3 weeks. A vaginal ring is worn for 3 weeks and then removed — paving way for menstruation to occur. A new ring is then inserted after a week.
Types of a vaginal ring
- Combined hormonal vaginal contraceptive ring: The combined hormonal vaginal contraceptive ring is also known as NuvaRing. It is a flexible plastic (ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer) ring, which releases a low dose of progestin and oestrogen over 3 weeks.
- Progesterone only vaginal ring: A progesterone vaginal contraceptive ring has also been developed. It is precisely made for use during breastfeeding as it does not affect milk production.
How vaginal ring works?
A vaginal ring prevents pregnancy by steadily releasing hormones oestrogen and progesterone into the body, which suppresses ovulation — thereby keeping the ovaries from releasing an egg.
The hormones contained in a vaginal ring might also:
- Thicken the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching the egg.
- Thin the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to avert implantation of a fertilized egg.
Vaginal ring use
A vaginal ring use is very simple. To insert it:
- Wash the hands with soap and water.
- Remove the ring from the foil packet and save the packet.
- Squeeze the sides of the ring together to make it narrow and insert the ring into the vagina.
Removal of a vaginal ring
To remove a vaginal ring:
- Hook the index finger under the edge of the ring or grasp the ring between the index finger and middle finger, and pull it out gently.
- Place the used ring back into the original foil packet and discard. Don’t flush.
- Wait for one week before inserting a new ring.
Advantages of a vaginal ring.
Some of the benefits of a vaginal ring include:
- Ease of use.
- Doesn’t interrupt sex.
- Likely to ease menstrual cramps and acne.
- It has some bone-strengthening effects.
- There are fewer side effects than oral contraceptives.
- Periods will likely be shorter and lighter.
How effective is the vaginal ring used?
A vaginal ring use prevents pregnancy at a rate of 96%-99% when used correctly.
Does a vaginal contraceptive ring have side effects?
There are a couple of side effects to vaginal ring use:
- Weight gain.
- Breast tenderness.
- Vaginal irritation.
Is a vaginal contraceptive ring for everyone?
Vaginal ring use is not suitable for everyone. A vaginal contraceptive ring should be avoided by the following set of persons:
- Those with a history of blood clots, heart attack or stroke.
- Women suffering from breast cancer or other hormone-sensitive cancers.
- Pregnant women.
- Above 35 years and smoke cigarettes.
- With hepatitis or liver problems.
- Have uncontrolled high blood pressure.
- Have diabetes with complications related to blood vessels.
- Have migraines with aura.
- Are experiencing unexplained vaginal bleeding.
What are the risks of using a vaginal contraceptive ring?
A vaginal ring use comes with certain complications, for instance:
- Blood clots.
- Heart attack.
- Toxic shock syndrome.
- Vaginal infection.
- Increased vaginal discharge.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Abdominal pain.
Why is a vaginal contraceptive ring needed?
A vaginal contraceptive ring helps to prevent pregnancy.