Family Health Guide

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Birth Control: Vaginal Ring

Aside from your wedding band, this might become the most important ring in your life. The vaginal ring is a flexible, plastic circle that’s placed in the upper vagina where it releases estrogen and progestin. You insert the ring yourself, by folding it and sliding it into the vagina as far up as it feels comfortable. There is no exact or correct position. Sold as NuvaRing, it works by preventing ovulation, thickening cervical mucus and thinning the lining of the uterus. The ring is 92% effective at preventing pregnancy. A woman can become pregnant less than a month after she stops using the ring.

You'll "wear" the ring for 21 days, and then remove it on the same day and about the same time you inserted it. (A new ring meant to be left in place for one year is currently being tested for use). Over the next ring-free week you'll get your period and then insert a new device after 7 days. It's rare but possible that NuvaRing can slip out during a strenuous bowel movement. It might also slip out when removing a tampon or even during sex. If it happens and you can't reinsert for more than 3 hours, you'll need to use a backup method of birth control for the next week.

Women report they experience more regular, lighter, and shorter periods as well as headaches and nausea. Vaginal infections and irritation are also negative side effects but not common. Taking estrogen is not recommended for women who smoke, have complications from diabetes, high blood pressure or migraines with auras because of an increased risk of blood clots, which might lead to a stroke or heart attack.