The birth control ring is a flexible, plastic ring that’s placed in your vagina to prevent pregnancy. Birth control rings are also known as vaginal rings and have been a safe contraceptive since 2001.
How the ring works
The ring releases the hormones progestin and estrogen — the same hormones found in the combination birth control pill. Together, these hormones suppress ovulation, prevent sperm from reaching the egg, and thin the uterine lining.
How often you need to do something if you’re using the NuvaRing
There are two types of rings — one that is disposed of after 3-4 weeks and one that can be used for a year.
The NuvaRing is taken out every month. Use of the NuvaRing depends on if you want to get your period or skip it. If you want to get your period, take it out after 3-4 weeks for a week. After a week, replace it with a new ring. If you want to skip your period, you can replace your NuvaRing with a new one on the same day after 3-5 weeks.
How often you need to do something if you’re using the ANNOVERA ring
If you’re using the ANNOVERA ring, you put it in for 21 days, remove it for 7 days (this is your period), store it safely, and then put it back in for 21 days. The ANNOVERA ring lasts for 13 cycles.
When you remove it, you’ll need to clean it and store it in the case it comes with.
Benefits and drawbacks
Considering the ring for birth control? Here’s what to know.
- Easy, safe, and convenient
- Doesn’t interrupt sexual activity and doesn’t require partner participation (it can be removed for sex, but only for 3 hours)
- Doesn’t require taking a pill everyday
- Only need to remove and replace approximately once a month
- Can get pregnant as early as one to two weeks after removing the ring
- Can ease menstrual cramps and acne
- Doesn’t protect against STIs
- Side effects can include irregular periods, nausea, headaches, breast tenderness, mood changes, and weight gain
- May be at higher risk for blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, and toxic shock syndrome
- Requires a replacement device every year
- Some wearers experience vaginal irritation and infection
When used correctly, the ring is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. What lowers effectiveness? Not putting your ring in on time or taking it out too early can lower pregnancy prevention, along with certain medications and health conditions.
If you insert the ring within the first five days of your period, you’ll be protected right away. Otherwise, you’ll need backup birth control for the first seven days after you put the ring in.
Where and how to get it
Get a prescription from a healthcare provider or family planning clinic for the birth control ring. You may need to go in for a follow-up appointment after the first few months of use.
The average cost for the birth control ring is $40 to $200 per month, though you may be able to get it for less at a family planning clinic. Many insurance carriers and government health plans also cover the costs, including medical exams.
Most healthy women can use the vaginal ring, although there are some exceptions. If you have a history of certain cancers, blood clots, heart attacks, migraines, stroke, hepatitis, or high blood pressure, the ring might not be a fit for you. If you smoke and use the ring, it may increase your risk of blood clots. For those who have a hard time remembering to take a pill every day, the ring can be a convenient, effective choice.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- “Birth Control Ring.” Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood. 2020. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-vaginal-ring-nuvaring.
- “Birth Control Ring.” TeensHealth. Nemours. July 2018. https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/contraception-ring.html.
- Healthline Editorial Team. “About the Vaginal Ring.” Healthline. Healthline Media. https://www.healthline.com/health/birth-control-vaginal-ring.
- “The Birth Control Ring.” My Doctor Online, The Permanente Group. The Permanente Medical Group. 2020. https://mydoctor.kaiserpermanente.org/ncal/structured-content/Health_Topic_The_Birth_Control_Ring_-_ObGyn.xml?co=%2Fregions%2Fncal.
- “Vaginal Ring for Birth Control.” WebMD. WebMD. August 9, 2019. https://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/vaginal-ring-birth-control.