Birth Control Vaginal Ring: NuvaRing

The women's health team at Gainesville's All About Women discuss this low-dosing form of hormonal birth control.

If you're looking for a form of birth control that's highly effective and requires dosing far less often than the daily pill, the vaginal ring might be right for you.

The vaginal ring (brand name NuvaRing) is a small, flexible ring that measures about 2 inches in diameter. A woman inserts this ring into her vagina and leaves it there for three weeks. Once inserted, the ring releases the hormones progestin and estrogen. Alternatively, she can leave the Nuvaring in for 4 weeks and then remove it.

These hormones prevent eggs from being fully developed and released by the ovaries, thus preventing pregnancy. According to the manufacturer, NuvaRing is 98% effective when used according to directions.

How To Use NuvaRing Birth Control

For immediate pregnancy protection, you should insert the ring within five days of starting your period. The ring, when properly placed high in the vagina, should be comfortable to wear. It is left in for three weeks. After the third week, you remove the ring for one week, during which time you will have your period.

Some women chose to insert another NuvaRing immediately after the third week as a way to bypass any period. If you want to use the ring in this way, you should talk to your healthcare provider first.

You do not need to remove the NuvaRing during intercourse. New mothers can begin using NuvaRing three weeks after giving birth, or six weeks if breastfeeding.

Women Who Should Not Use NuvaRing

Because of the risk of blood clots, women who are over the age of 35 and smoke should not use the NuvaRing. Women who are obese, have a family history of blood clots, or who are older may not be good candidates for NuvaRing, either.

Other women who should not take NuvaRing include those who have:

  • Migraines with aura
  • Any kind of blood clotting disorder
  • A cancer sensitive to female hormones, such as breast cancer
  • Serious liver disease or serious heart problems
  • Weak pelvic floor muscles

Advantages of NuvaRing

The NuvaRing's biggest advantage is that it's fairly simple to use and generally low-maintenance, especially compared to taking a daily pill. But, like the pill, you administer the contraception yourself. After the initial prescription, you do not need to visit a doctor's office for dosing.

NuvaRing also carries many of the same advantages of other forms of combination hormonal contraception (CHCs). These benefits may include:

  • Lighter, shorter, more regular periods

  • Reduced premenstrual symptoms, such as depression and headaches

  • Protection from iron deficiency anemia, breast cysts, bone thinning, acne, and the growth of non-cancerous breast tumors.

  • The ability to become pregnant quickly when use is discontinued

  • An increased sense of sexual spontaneity

For many women, the NuvaRing is very comfortable and unnoticeable when worn.

Disadvantages and Side Effects

NuvaRing does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you are having sex with an untested partner or haven't undergone testing yourself, you must use an additional barrier method (i.e condom) to protect against the transmission of STIs.

The NuvaRing does have some common side effects that usually subside after two or three months, including:

  • Spotting between periods
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Breast Tenderness
  • Headaches

There are other side effects women may experience that are longer lasting. These side effects include irritation of the vagina or cervix and decreased sexual desire. Other women may experience changes in mood, particularly women who have experienced depression in the past. If you suffer or have suffered from depression, talk to you doctor about if the NuvaRing is a good option for you.

Women who use NuvaRing, as well as other forms of CHCs, have a slightly higher risk of developing serious blood clots. These blood clots, if not caught, can lead to stroke, heart attack, or deep vein thrombosis. The risk of developing such a clot though is far less than the chance it might occur during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about these risks before you begin using NuvaRing.

Talk to Your Birth Control and GYN Physician

The NuvaRing is a great option for women who are looking for a lower maintenance, reversible form of birth control. As a woman, you should know that there are many different kinds of birth control available to suit your needs.

If you're interested in learning more about different types of birth control, including permanent and reversible options, continue reading on our Knowledge Center and blog. And to discuss your individual situation, make an appointment with birth control and women’s’ preventive care specialists at All About Women in Gainesville or Lake City today.