Easy to insert, works like the pill, keeps you protected for a month at a time.
The ring (brand name: NuvaRing) is a small, bendable ring that you insert into your vagina. You leave it in place for three weeks at a time, then take it out for the fourth week. The ring works by giving off hormones that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus, which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place.
Comfortable with your body
If you’re not okay with putting your fingers inside yourself, the ring probably isn’t for you. It’s a lot like putting in a tampon, though. If you can do that, you’re good to go.
Relatively little effort each month
If you’re the kind of person who would have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, the ring might be a good option. You only need to remember to do something twice a month.
Storage and privacy
If you’re storing the ring for more than 4 months, it needs to be stored in the refrigerator. So if you don’t want your boyfriend (or anyone else) to know you’re using it, this could be a problem. The rings you’re waiting to use in the future should be kept in the fridge. Also, some guys say they can feel the ring when you’re having sex.
A lower dose of hormones
The ring uses a lower dose of hormones than other methods, so there’s less chance of negative side effects.
Smokers over 35, beware
For those over 35 years old, smoking while using the ring increases the risk of certain side effects. If you’re younger, why not quit smoking now and save yourself the trouble in the future?
The pregnancy question
You’ll return to fertility (that’s just another way of saying you’ll go back to being able to get pregnant) quickly after going off the ring. So don’t take any chances. If you’re not ready for a baby, protect yourself.
This method may be free or low-cost for you.
The NuvaRing costs a bit more per month than similar methods. We’re talking about $80 without insurance. But you only have to take out the old one and insert a new one every month.
- With Medicaid: Free or a small co-pay
- With insurance: $0. Great news. Preventive health services like birth control are covered for no additional charge now.
- Without insurance: About $22 per ring + $100 yearly exam at Title X/low-cost health centers; $70 per ring + $150 yearly exam at other providers.
- Payment assistance: Check with your local family planning health centers and find out if they offer free or low-cost rings. Also, ask your doctor/health center for extra samples, or check out www.nuvaring.com for coupons that can save you as much as $60 over four months.
To see how this translates over a year, here’s what it would cost to pay for a Ring month-to-month at full price:
- Cost per month over one year: $30 at Title X/low-cost health centers* or $83 at other providers
* FYI: This info is based on a recent survey of Title X clinics in Colorado and birth control manufacturers. Your cost may vary. Some health centers accept private insurance; some don’t. If you don’t have private insurance, be sure to ask your doctor or health center about Title X (a federal family planning program), Medicaid, or other programs that could reduce the cost of your birth control.
The ring is really pretty easy to use.
All you need to remember is the schedule for inserting and removing it.
How to put it in
First off, wash your hands. To put in the ring, just squish it between your thumb and index finger, and insert it like a tampon. It’ll sit tucked up against the side of your vaginal wall. The exact position doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re comfortable. You don’t even need to take it out when you’re having sex. (But if you want to take it out during sex, that’s cool, too. Just make sure to put it back in within three hours, and do this only once out of every 24 hours.)
How to take it out
Once you insert the ring, leave it in for three weeks. Take it out for the fourth week, then insert a new ring and start the cycle again. (To take the ring out, hook your finger on the lower edge and pull. Simple as that.)
When the ring is out, you’ll probably get your period. If you’re still bleeding when it’s time to put the ring back in, don’t worry. That’s totally normal. Go ahead and put the new ring in anyway.
There are positive and negative things to say
about each and every method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.
Positive “side effects”? You bet. There are actually lots of things about birth control that are good for your body as well as your sex life.
- Easy to use—it’s just like putting in a tampon
- Doesn’t interrupt the heat of the moment
- Might give you shorter, lighter periods
- May clear up acne
- Can reduce menstrual cramps and PMS
- Offers protection against some nasty health problems, like endometrial and ovarian cancer, iron deficiency anemia, ovarian cysts, and pelvic inflammatory disease
Everyone worries about negative side effects, but for most women, they’re not a problem. Remember, you’re introducing hormones into your body, so it can take a few months to adjust. Give it time.
Things that will probably go away after two or three months:
- Bleeding in between periods
- Breast tenderness
- Nausea and vomiting
Things that may last longer:
- Increased vaginal discharge, irritation, or infection
- A change in your sex drive
If you still feel uncomfortable after three months, switch methods and stay protected. You’re worth it.
*For a very small number of women there are risks of serious side effects.
We’re here to get this method working better for you.
And if it still doesn’t feel right, we’ve got ideas for other methods. Just remember: If you change methods, make sure you’re protected while you switch.
I’m tired of inserting it.
A once-a-month method like the ring requires less effort than many other options out there, but there are certainly other effective methods that require even less work.
I’m getting vaginal discharge.
The extra discharge you are experiencing from using the ring is probably normal. After a couple of cycles, this discharge may go back to normal. Also, the ring may protect you from a bacterial infection that can occur in the vagina called bacterial vaginosis (BV).
If you’re concerned that the vaginal discharge that you’re experiencing may be caused by an infection, visit your health care provider.
Still not working?
If it sticks around and really bothers you, think about something you don’t insert into your vagina. You could try the pill or patch (if you like regular periods), or the shot (if you don’t mind irregular or nonexistent periods).
It’s always slipping out.
There’s a chance you’re not inserting the ring correctly.
Try this: Use an empty tampon inserter to push it in all the way.
It’s too expensive.
Since we don’t exactly know what you’re paying now, we’ll cover a few scenarios to see if we can help you out:
If you’re on Medicaid, the ring might be free for you. If you have private insurance, it’s probably covered for no more than your co-pay.
If those aren’t options for you, check with the family planning health centers around you and find out if they offer free or low-cost birth control. Most do.
Another solution might be to ask your partner to help pay for the expense.
You could also check the NuvaRing website for discounts and coupons.
Still not working?
If you find it’s still just too expensive, you have other options. Some varieties of the pill (generics, in particular) may be cheaper than the ring (no generic ring yet!), but don’t forget that you need to take the pill every single day.
My partner says he feels the ring when we have sex
You can always pull the ring out when you’re getting busy. Just be sure to rinse it with cool water and reinsert it within 3 hours. And only do that once within a 24-hour time period.
Still not working?
If you want a method that you don’t have to remember daily, you won’t have to remove in the moment, and that your partner won’t feel during sex, you might want to go with the implant, shot, or patch.
Real Stories (English)
Tim’s girlfriend made the choice to get the NuvaRing, a.k.a. the ring, and he’s cool with that; he thinks it’s her body, her choice. For him, the ring is great because it lets him go condom-free and really feel her, but sometimes Tim and his girlfriend can also feel the ring during sex. When that happens they just remove it and put it right back in after. (They checked with her doctor, who said that was ok.) It’s not a big deal though, especially when you get worry-free sex without the risk pregnancy.
The first time Theresa used the ring, she was a little unsure how to insert it. But now she’s a pro, with a twist method to get it in and a fishhook move to get it out. No sweat. She also uses the stickers that come with each ring to remind her when one went in (twist…) and when it needs to come out (hook…). We’ve got electronic reminders to help you with that, too.
Alexandria moved from the pill to the ring and has good things to say about the switch. She’s got shorter periods now and prefers dealing with birth control once a month instead of once a day. For the most part, once the ring is in, it’s in. A couple of times, though, it’s come out of Alexandria during sex. When that happens, she just puts it on the bedside table til they’re done knocking boots. Then she rinses it off and pops it back in within 3 hours. No panic necessary—she’s covered the whole time.
Nicole tried a bunch of different birth control methods—and almost gave up more than once—before finding the right fit with the ring. She was nervous at first, afraid that “things could get lost in there.” But she gave it a go, and now finds it easy to use and knows a ring won’t go where it shouldn’t. Nicole uses an alarm on her phone and a paper calendar to remember to insert and remove each ring.