The NuvaRing — another birth control option

Originally Published: November 1, 2002 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: October 28, 2011
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Dear Alice,

What is the NuvaRing, and how does it work?

Dear Reader,

A true revolution in 1960, these days the pill is old news. Today, women have a variety of birth control methods to choose from — including the NuvaRing, a vaginal contraceptive approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001. The NuvaRing is a clear plastic ring (slightly larger than a rubber band) that is placed in a woman's vagina for three weeks at a time. The ring provides a continuous low dose of progestin and estrogen hormones that are absorbed through the vaginal wall. Just like the pill or the patch, the ring prevents pregnancy by suppressing ovulation (meaning that the ovaries do not release the monthly egg) and thickening the cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus. The ring stays in the vagina for three weeks, then it's removed and a woman gets her period during the fourth, "ring-free" week.

To get NuvaRing in the U.S., women will need to visit a health care provider for a prescription. Your health care provider will let you know when to insert the ring and how many days it will take for the ring to provide effective pregnancy prevention. In any case, the ring doesn't completely protect against pregnancy during the very first week of use, so you will need to use a back-up method of contraception. After the first week, the ring provides continuous pregnancy protection, even during the fourth "ring-free" week when you get your period.

Inserting the ring may seem awkward at first, but practice makes perfect — similar to using a tampon or diaphragm.

  • First, wash your hands and take the ring out of the foil pouch.
  • Next, find a comfortable position — lie down or put one foot up on a chair or bathtub.
  • Pinch the ring between your thumb and index finger so that the circle shape bends into an oval. Slowly insert the ring into your vagina and use your pointer finger to push the ring in.
  • The ring is generally more comfortable and less likely to slip out if you position it at the back of the vaginal canal, past your pubic bone. Don't worry; the cervix keeps the ring from going in too deep or "getting lost" inside your vagina.
  • If the ring does slip out, just rinse it off and re-insert. If the ring has been out for more than three hours though, you should use a condom prevent getting pregnant.

After three weeks, take out the ring on the same day and at around the same time that it was inserted. For example, if you started using the ring at noon on a Sunday, then remove it three Sundays later around lunchtime. To take out the ring, insert your index finger into your vagina and hook your finger under the edge of the ring. Slowly tug, and the ring should slide out.

Your period will usually start two to three days after removing the ring. Just like starting a new birth control pill pack, you should insert a new ring one week from the time the last one was removed, even if menstruation continues, on the same day of the week and at or around the same time as it was inserted during the last cycle.

When used correctly, the ring is 98 to 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, but there are some disadvantages. Women using the ring may experience side effects similar to the pill such as vaginal discharge, headaches, weight gain, and nausea. NuvaRing is not recommended for women who smoke, use a diaphragm, are pregnant, or have a history of heart attack or stroke. In rare cases the ring may increase the risk of blood clots, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, and liver tumors.

If you're interested in learning about different birth control methods or using the NuvaRing, talk with your health care provider. At Columbia, students can call x4-2284 or log on to Open Communicator to make an appointment at Primacy Care Medical Services.  Whether or not you get hooked on the NuvaRing, it's nice to know there's another reliable form of birth control out there.

Alice

December 3, 2007

21341
Hi Alice,

Have been very pleased with NuvaRing. I'm on my 4th cycle with it, and it has not presented any problems with intercouse, and it has never come out accidentally. I'm not experiencing the...

Hi Alice,

Have been very pleased with NuvaRing. I'm on my 4th cycle with it, and it has not presented any problems with intercouse, and it has never come out accidentally. I'm not experiencing the mood swings that I did with a tri-phasic low-dose pill, and my periods are pretty light. Libido may be decreased slightly from normal (we were using natural methods for a couple of years), but not nearly as significantly as with the pill.

August 21, 2007

21300
I've used the NuvaRing for a few months, and it is definitely better than the pill. With the pill I became, no joke, a monster. It messed up my emotions so bad that I couldn't stay on it for any...
I've used the NuvaRing for a few months, and it is definitely better than the pill. With the pill I became, no joke, a monster. It messed up my emotions so bad that I couldn't stay on it for any length of time, and this brand is considered one of the easiest on side effects. With the NuvaRing, I get none of these emotional symptoms. In fact, it gives me piece of mind, which probably makes me even better to be around than before.

July 7, 2006

21020

Alice,

I use the NuvaRing. I have used it for 2 months now and I can honestly say that it's much better than the Pill. I was on the pill prior to the Ring and I was getting regular...

Alice,

I use the NuvaRing. I have used it for 2 months now and I can honestly say that it's much better than the Pill. I was on the pill prior to the Ring and I was getting regular breakthrough bleeding with it because my body got used to the doses of the hormones. It was so bad that I would set my phone alarm to go off at the same time every day so I could take the pill and still got the bleeding. This was not normal and I discussed it with my OBGYN. He recommended the Ring and I have been very satisfied with it. My partner can't feel it and neither can I. Just thought you'd like to hear from someone who is actually using and LOVING the Ring.