Vaginal Contraceptive Ring Patient Fact Sheet

What is a vaginal contraceptive ring?
The vaginal ring is a small, flexible, plastic ring that is inserted into the vagina. The ring contains the same hormones (progestin and estrogen) found in most birth control pills. The hormones in the ring are released into the vagina and prevent pregnancy by keeping the ovaries from releasing eggs. They also cause the cervical mucus to thicken, which blocks sperm from meeting with and fertilizing an egg. Currently there is only one vaginal ring available for the prevention of pregnancy, Nuvaring (etonogestrel, ethinyl estradiol).

How effective is a vaginal ring?
Only 5 of 100 women who use this method each year are likely to get pregnant. The risk of pregnancy is much less for women who use the vaginal ring correctly. It may also not work as well for women who take certain medicines or St. John’s Wort.

What are the advantages?

  • Safe and effective in preventing pregnancy
  • Do not have to think about birth control when you want to have sex
  • Your periods may be lighter when using the ring
  • Fewer menstrual cramps, less acne, and stronger bones

What are the disadvantages?

  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Certain antibiotics and supplements may make the vaginal ring less effective
  • May take a month or two after stopping the ring before normal periods return
  • May experience vaginal discharge, swelling, or breast tenderness
  • Increased risk of blood clots, heart attacks, toxic shock syndrome, and strokes