Know Vaginal Ring Carefully Before Using It – Part 1

Know Vaginal Ring Carefully Before Using It – Part 1

The vaginal ring is a contraception underdog. Contraception is often discussed in terms of the pill or IUDs. Depending on your needs, the vaginal ring (marketed as NuvaRing) may be a good option. Here are 14 facts about it.

Photo: Anastasiia_M/Gettey Images
Photo: Anastasiia_M/Gettey Images

1. To prevent unintended pregnancy, the NuvaRing is a flexible plastic loop that goes into your vagina.

An estrogen and progesterone ring keeps your uterus empty. “People have mysterious thoughts about it, but it is really like taking a combined hormonal birth control pill in another form,” says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., of Yale Medical School.

This is because estrogen suppresses ovulation, and progestin thickens cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to travel, according to the Mayo Clinic. The progestin also thins the uterine lining, making it difficult for an egg to grow if fertilized.

The research shows that NuvaRing has a 0.3 percent failure rate with perfect use. Using NuvaRing correctly for a year reduces the chance of pregnancy to less than one in 100 women. In the first year of using NuvaRing, nine out of 100 women become pregnant. According to research, the birth control pill has the same failure rate.

Also, NuvaRing doesn’t protect against STDs, so if you’re at risk, use barrier methods like condoms and dental dams during sex.

2. NuvaRing may help with heavy or painful periods.

Thanks to NuvaRing’s progestin. Progestin reduces the uterine lining buildup, so you can have a lighter period, Dr. Minkin says. Prostaglandins, which are hormone-like chemicals that cause period cramps, are produced by the uterine lining. Less uterine lining means less pain-causing prostaglandins, so it’s a win-win.

3. It’s universal (vaginas).

The vaginal ring can bend and stretch to fit inside your vagina, says Raquel Dardik, M.D., a gynecologist at NYU Langone. Dr. Minkin warns that if you just had a vaginal delivery with a big baby, this may not work for you right away. Overall, the NuvaRing should fit most vaginal users. “I’ve never seen it fail,” Dr. Minkin says.

4. To use the ring, you put it on and take it off three weeks later at the same time. For some, this is better than the pill.

You’ll get a “period” without the ring, which is really just a hormonal withdrawal bleed. Even if your period hasn’t stopped, you should replace your ring after the off-week.

Some people prefer NuvaRing because it provides many of the same benefits as the pill without the daily commitment. “I have people who would benefit from the pill but can not remember to take it. It’s an excellent alternative, says Dr. Minkin.

5. The insertion and removal process is usually quite simple.

It’s quite straightforward as long as women are comfortable inserting their fingers into their vagina, Dr. Dardik explains.

Voici how NuvaRing recommends inserting the device:

  • Hand-wash and dry.
  • Lie down, squat, or stand with one leg up.
  • Take your NuvaRing out of the foil pouch and squeeze the sides together.
  • Using your index finger, insert the ring into your vagina. If you’re too aware of it or it’s too low, push it up.

“It usually only takes a couple of minutes,” Dr. Minkin says. Ask your doctor about a tampon-like applicator to help you insert NuvaRing.

It is easy to remove as well.

  • Hand-wash and dry.
  • Get comfortable.
  • Hook your index finger through the ring and into your vagina.
  • Pull it out gently downward and forward.
  • Toss it.

Dr. Minkin says this is also common. “But I always reassure people that if they can’t, I can.”

6. Your NuvaRing does not need to be refrigerated before use.

Your pharmacist should keep your NuvaRing in the fridge. The NuvaRing prescribing information states that users should store the device at room temperature (68-77 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to four months or until the expiration date.

A pharmacist should also keep NuvaRing in a fridge between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit before dispensing it to patients. It’s all about extending the product’s shelf life, says Jamie Alan, Ph.D., of Michigan State University. NuvaRings can be kept in the fridge for up to four months.

Don’t think you can keep your vaginal ring for four months or more if you put it in the fridge. You don’t want to take a chance with birth control.

7. It won’t get lost on you.

This is a legitimate concern when putting anything in your vagina, but don’t worry about it. Dr. Minkin explains that the ring can’t go anywhere else in your body besides your vagina because of your cervix.

Keep in mind that some people have accidentally inserted the ring into their bladder (via their urethra) instead of their vagina. Then call your doctor if you have pain after inserting the vaginal ring and it isn’t in your vagina.

Click here for Part 2:

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