The ring (brand name: NuvaRing®) is a small, bendable ring that you insert into the vagina (it kind of looks like a jelly hair tie, but it feels a tiny bit stiffer). You leave it in place for three weeks at a time, then take it out for the fourth week (the period week). This method uses a lower dose of hormones than other methods, so there may be fewer side effects. How it works: The ring works by giving off synthetic hormones (estrogen and progestin) that prevent ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken cervical mucus, which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place.
Lasts 4 Weeks
› No STI Protection
The ring does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV (if left untreated, can cause AIDS). You should use a condom each time you have sex to prevent STIs.
› little effort each month
If you’re the kind of person who would have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, the ring might be a good option. But you need to remember to do something twice a month. Here’s how it goes: Ring in. Wait 3 weeks. Ring out. Wait 1 week. Repeat.
If you’re not okay with putting your fingers inside yourself, the ring probably isn’t for you. It’s a lot like putting in a tampon without an applicator — if you can do that, you’re good to go. Click here for a step-by-step process on how to use it.
› Skipping Periods
Instead of having the week “off” the ring to have your period, you can skip it by inserting a new ring, which is totally safe for most folks. Keep in mind that you’ll need to refill your prescription sooner. Always consult your healthcare provider before skipping your period.
› Storage and Privacy
If you’re storing the ring for more than four months, it needs to be stored in the refrigerator. So if you don’t want anyone to know you’re using it, this could be a problem. Also, some partners say they can feel the ring when you’re having sex. If that’s a problem, you can take the ring out during sex — just make sure to wash your hands and the ring before placing it back in the vagina within 3 hours, and only do this once within 24 hours.
› Smokers Over 35, Beware
For those over 35 years old, smoking while using the ring increases the risk of certain side effects.
› The pregnancy question
Your ability to get pregnant will return immediately after you stop using the ring. But if you’re not ready to get pregnant as soon as you stop, be sure to protect yourself with an alternate method.
› first months & beyond…
Most people adjust to having the ring pretty quickly but give yourself time. The most common (often temporary) side effects are irregular bleeding, sore breast/chest, and nausea. If these are still causing discomfort after a few months, talk to your provider — you’re worth it!
› have a back-up
The ring takes about 7 days to get working the first time you use it, so use a back-up method, like a condom, during that time. In the case of an emergency (like method failure), consider using emergency contraception and talk to your provider.
Where Can I Get One?
Call a partner clinic to see if you qualify to receive this method at no or low cost.