Birth Control Hormones: The Ring

Overview

The ring is used to prevent pregnancy. It's a soft plastic ring that you put into your vagina. It's also called the vaginal ring.

The ring releases a regular dose of the hormones estrogen and progestin. These hormones prevent pregnancy in three ways. They thicken the mucus in the cervix. This makes it hard for sperm to travel into the uterus. They thin the lining of the uterus, which makes it harder for a fertilized egg to attach to the uterus. The hormones also can stop the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation).

The ring protects against pregnancy for 1 month at a time. You wear one ring for 3 weeks in a row and then go without a ring for 1 week. During this week, you have your period. Your period may be very light. Or you may use the ring continuously. This means you don't take the ring out for a week each month. With this method, you won't have your period.

How well does it work?

In the first year of use:

  • When the ring is used exactly as directed, fewer than 1 person out of 100 has an unplanned pregnancy.
  • When the ring is not used exactly as directed, 9 or more people out of 100 have an unplanned pregnancy.

What are the advantages of using the ring for birth control?

  • The ring is more effective for preventing pregnancy than barrier methods of birth control, such as the condom or diaphragm.
  • It may reduce acne, heavy bleeding and cramping, and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
  • The ring is convenient. You insert it only 1 time each month. You don't have to interrupt sex to protect against pregnancy.
  • The ring may also be used continuously, without taking it out for a week each month. This protects against pregnancy and is also a safe way to avoid having your period. This may help if you have painful periods.

What are the disadvantages of using the ring for birth control?

  • The ring doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as herpes or HIV/AIDS. If you aren't sure if your sex partner(s) might have an STI, use a condom to help protect against infection.
  • The ring may cause changes in your period. You may have little bleeding, skipped periods, or spotting. If you're using the ring continuously, without taking it out for a week, you won't have periods. But you may still have breakthrough bleeding. This usually isn't harmful, and it may decrease over time.
  • It may cause mood changes, less interest in sex, or weight gain.
  • The ring contains estrogen. It may not be right for you if you have certain health problems or concerns.
  • You must remember to change the ring on schedule.

Credits

Current as of: November 22, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine