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What is the vaginal ring? The NuvaRing and how it works

The vaginal ring works as a low dose hormonal contraceptive


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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The vaginal ring is a low dose hormonal contraceptive. For someone who has toruble remembering to take the pill every day, the vaginal ring, also known as the NuvaRing, could be great alternative, as it's not something you need to remember every day.

What is NuvaRing?

NuvaRing is the name for the vaginal ring, a contraceptive ring that releases a low-dose of hormones.

The vaginal ring a small, clear plastic ring that is inserted into the vagina for three weeks each month. It is a hormonal birth control, like the combined contraceptive pill, but in ring form.

After three weeks, you remove the ring to make way for a menstrual period. This is followed by one week without the vaginal ring before a new ring is inserted for another three weeks.

How does the vaginal ring work?

During the three weeks, the ring releases a low dose of hormones that prevent pregnancy by stopping the release of a mature egg (ovulation). The hormones also thicken cervical fluid, so that the sperm cannot reach an egg if one is released. Finally, the ring thins the lining of the womb to prevent implantation (the fertilised egg settling into the womb).

You can have sex and use tampons while using the vaginal ring, but it does not protect against sexual infections (STIs). Always use a condom to protect yourself from STIs.

What if the ring moves or slips out?

The vaginal ring should not slip out as it is held in place by the vaginal muscles. If it does slip out, wash it with cool or lukewarm water and re-insert the same ring as soon as possible. If the ring is out of the body for over 3 hours, you should contact your GP and use an additional form of contraception.

How to get NuvaRing

There is only one ring available at this time called the NuvaRing. Getting the ring requires a prescription from your GP. 

Advantages of the vaginal ring:

  • You don't have to remember to use it every day, making it ideal for people who struggle to take the pill each day
  • Easy to put in and take out
  • It doesn't have to be fitted by a doctor
  • It has the same advantages as the combined contraceptive pill
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhoea it doesn't affect the contraceptive, unlike the pill
  • You can have the ring in place when swimming, exercising or showering
  • It doesn’t disrupt or interupt sex in any way, like putting on a condom might
  • Some women find that it helps to ease their PMS and that it makes their periods lighter and less painful

Disadvantages of the vaginal ring:

  • It doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections
  • You need to feel comfortable about inserting the ring in your vagina
  • May include side affects such as headaches, weight gain, nausea, irregular periods, vaginal infections, mood changes and stomach pain
  • The vaginal ring is more expensive than the contraceptive pill
  • It is prescription only

For more information on the vaginal ring contact your GP or visit the Irish Family Planning Association.

Remember that the age of sexual consent in the republic of Ireland is 17 and the age of sexual consent in Northern Ireland is 16.

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Published February 6th, 2013
Last updated March 7th, 2018
Tags contraception vaginal ring nuvaring sexual health
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