Contraceptive Ring

The vaginal contraceptive ring is a relatively new contraceptive option for women.

Similarly to the contraceptive patch, the ring is a hormonal contraceptive that releases a slow dose of the synthetic hormones, oestrogen and progestogen, over the course of three weeks.

Unlike oral contraceptives such as the combined pill, which need to be taken at the same time daily to avoid pregnancy, the ring has the added bonus of being inserted once a month. Furthermore, the hormones from the ring will successfully be absorbed even if you are suffering from an upset tummy, making the ring one of the most convenient and effective contraceptives available for women.

How does the ring work?

The ring works in a similar way to the combined contraceptive pill:

  • It repeatedly releases oestrogen and progestogen, which are synthetic versions of the hormones that are naturally released by the ovaries, preventing ovulation (the release of an eggs)
  • It thickens cervical fluid, making it more difficult for the sperm to get through
  • It thins the lining of the womb making it difficult for any egg that is fertilised to implant and grow

How should the ring be used?

A small, soft plastic ring that is generally about 4mm thick, and 5.5cm in diameter, the vaginal ring is inserted into the vagina on the first day of a woman’s menstrual cycle, effectively positioned in place by the vagina wall muscles. This enables you to be protected instantly. After three weeks, the ring should be removed, resulting in a ring free seven-day break, during which, you will experience a withdrawal bleed similar to a period. During this break, as long as the new ring is inserted seven days later, you will be fully protected.

How effective is the vaginal ring?

If used correctly, the vaginal ring is more than 99% effective. This means that less than one woman out of every 100 who use the vaginal ring, will become pregnant in one year.

What are the benefits as opposed to the drawbacks?

Benefits Drawbacks
One ring will provide contraception for a month, so you don’t have to think about it every day. Temporary side effects may include increased vaginal discharge,
breast tenderness, mood changes, nausea and headaches.
It doesn’t interrupt sex because you can have sex with the ring in place. A few women develop a blood clot (thrombosis) when using the ring, but this is rare.
Unlike the pill, the ring is still effective after vomiting or diarrhoea. On rare occasions the ring can come out on its own (expulsion), particularly after or during sex.
The ring may ease premenstrual symptoms, and bleeding will probably be lighter and less painful. The vaginal ring doesn’t offer protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Therefore it is essential you protect yourself by using condoms as well as the ring.
The ring can not be used by women who a have had a blood clot in a vein or artery, have heart or circulatory problems, including high blood pressure, are over 35 years old and smoke or have stopped smoking in the last year, suffer with severe migraines or are overweight.