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Birth Control Hormones: The Ring

Topic Overview

What is the ring?

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 the week without the ring, you have your period. Your period may be very light.

How well does it work?

In the first year of use:footnote 1

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

What are the advantages?

  • The ring is more effective for preventing pregnancy than barrier methods of birth control, such as the condom or diaphragm.
  • It prevents pregnancy for up to 1 month at a time.
  • 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 do not have to interrupt sex to protect against pregnancy.

What are the disadvantages?

  • 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 might have an STI, use a condom to protect against disease.
  • The ring may cause changes in your period. You may miss periods, or you may have spotting or a little bleeding. If you miss a period, find out if you are pregnant.
  • 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.

References

Citations

  1. Trussell J, Guthrie KA (2011). Choosing a contraceptive: Efficacy, safety, and personal considerations. In RA Hatcher et al., eds., Contraceptive Technology, 20th ed., pp. 45–74. Atlanta: Ardent Media.

Credits

Current as of: February 11, 2020

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

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