The vaginal ring is a small, round, flexible, plastic device that is inserted inside your vagina to help prevent pregnancy. It has hormones estrogen and progestin in their synthetic forms. Just like the patch, it releases hormones directly into your bloodstream once put in your vagina to actively stop pregnancy. The vaginal ring is a prescription only contraceptive and therefore you cannot obtain it over the counter. When the vaginal ring is used correctly, it is 99% effective.
How does the vaginal ring work?
Like most contraceptives, the vaginal ring works by,
- thickening your cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering to fertilize an egg.
- preventing ovulation.
- making your uterine lining thin avoiding any implantation of a fertilized egg.
The hormones are released into your bloodstream directly to prevent pregnancy. The vaginal ring is used continuously for three weeks and on the fourth week, you stay without a ring so as to allow for period bleeding, otherwise known as breakthrough bleeding. Sometimes, you may not bleed but spot instead and that is normal. After the free-ring week, you will resume using the vaginal ring.
How do I put on the vaginal ring?
To put on the vaginal ring, you can follow the following steps.
- Clean your hands with soap and water.
- Gently remove the ring from the packet it comes with. You can save the packet for use later on in your cycle.
- Find a comfortable position such as lying on your back, lifting up one leg, or squatting.
- Use one hand to open up the vulva.
- With the other hand, press the ring from its sides till it is narrow then gently slide it into your vagina. You can also use an applicator to insert the ring.
- Before moving from your position, feel if the the vaginal ring feels comfortable. If not, adjust it till you are comfortable with its placement.
- Wash your hands afterwards with soap and water.
NOTE: The position of the vaginal ring inside your vagina does not affect the effectiveness of the ring.
You can still put the ring on if you are still on your periods. You also need to keep the removing and inserting days consistent.
How do I remove the vaginal ring?
To remove the ring from your vagina, follow the following steps.
- Clean your hands with soap and water.
- Position yourself comfortably. This can be lying on your back, squatting, or lifting one leg up.
- Gently insert two of your fingers till you can feel your vaginal ring.
- Hook the end of the ring to your index finger, then use your middle finger to press either side of the ring together.
- Gently pull off the vaginal ring from your vagina.
- Wrap with a piece of tissue or the packet it came with.
- Dispose of it in a dustbin.
- Wash your hands with soap and water.
What do I do if the vaginal ring comes off on its own?
If by chance, the vaginal ring comes out accidentally, rinse it with cold or warm water then gently insert it back into your vagina. The ring will still be effective if it has been off between 2 or 3 hours. If the ring has been off for more than 3 hours, you can still reinsert it, but use additional forms of protection for the next seven days.
If the vaginal ring happens to come off by its own during the third week of your cycle, you can switch to a new one or you can stay without a ring for one week then resume usage after that one week. This will allow for breakthrough bleeding or spotting.
The vaginal ring may come out when,
- you are having sex, or after sex.
- you are removing a tampon.
- you are having bowel movement.
Benefits of the vaginal ring
Some of the benefits that come along with the vaginal ring are:
- It is easy to use.
- It has fewer side effects since it removes small amounts of hormones compared to other hormonal contraceptives.
- It is very effective.
- It does not require a personalized fitting.
- It can be removed at any time of your cycle.
- It is safe for women with latex allergies.
- It does not lead to weight gain.
- It helps manage Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).
- It makes your periods shorter and lighter.
Disadvantages of the vaginal ring
Some of the disadvantages of the vaginal ring are:
- It does not protect against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
- It may lead to vaginal irritation or infections.
- One may experience spotting or bleeding within the first few months of usage.
- You may be uncomfortable with inserting and removing the ring.
- It may take a while before your normal fertility cycle resumes.
- It can be affected with usage of certain medication.
Side effects of the vaginal ring
Some of the side effects associated with the vaginal ring are:
- Breast tenderness
- Breakthrough bleeding or spotting
- Decreased sex drive
- Abdominal pain
- Increased vaginal discharge
Before using any contraceptive, ensure you have consulted and discussed with your doctor.