Let’s Talk Contraception: NuvaRing, Another Contraceptive Choice

Would you like an alternative to a daily pill for contraception? NuvaRing is a flexible vaginal ring containing a combination of two hormones used to prevent pregnancy: a progestin and an estrogen. It is placed inside the vagina where it releases a continuous small dose of these hormones, and is left in place for three weeks. Then you remove it and wait one week, during which you usually will have your period. After this ring-free week, you insert a new ring.

The vaginal ring is an excellent alternative for people who don’t want to take a daily pill for contraception.

Used properly, it is nearly as effective as oral birth control pills, is easily reversible and frees you from having to remember to take a pill each day. You can use tampons, vaginal yeast medications, and spermicides when wearing the ring, but you should not use a diaphragm because it may not fit properly. In some vaginal conditions, such as a prolapsed (or falling) uterus, you may not be able to use the ring because it might slip out more easily. The NuvaRing can only work when it’s inserted properly in order to release its hormones. Most women report they cannot feel the ring once it’s inserted.

Most of the side effects of the NuvaRing are similar to birth control pills. Cigarette smoking is definitely not recommended because it may increase your risk for strokes or heart attacks, especially if you are older than 35. There have been several reports that the ring may put you at an increased risk for blood clots, and this is still being studied. If you have concerns about this or have a personal or family history of blood clots, heart attacks, or strokes, it’s important to talk with your health care provider before using the ring.

If you smoke, have recently had a baby or an abortion, are breastfeeding, or taking other medications, you should talk with your health care provider before using NuvaRing.

NuvaRing comes in a resealable foil pouch and the unopened package can be kept at room temperature (77 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to four months. Do not use it after the expiration date or if it has been exposed to warmer conditions (like being left in a car or sunlight). Once inserted, the ring does not dissolve or get “lost,” and must be removed after three weeks. To dispose of a used ring, place it back into the foil packet and throw it away, out of reach of children or pets.

If the ring accidentally slips out and has been out for only three hours, it may be reinserted after rinsing it with cool to lukewarm water. If it has been out for more than three hours, you may need to use another form of protection, such as condoms. If you forget to remove the ring at 21 days, you are still protected up to four weeks. If it has been longer than four weeks, you may not be protected. You will need to test that you are not pregnant before you insert another ring. It takes at least seven days once it’s inserted for the ring to protect you from pregnancy.

The NuvaRing is usually dispensed with lots of information on how to use and when to start, as well as stickers for your calendar to remind you when to remove it and insert the next ring.

Merck, the NuvaRing manufacturer, hosts an excellent website, NuvaRing.com, which includes videos and much more information about NuvaRing. Planned Parenthood’s website also has a page dedicated to the NuvaRing, including a video on proper use.

Your local Planned Parenthood health center can provide you with a prescription for the NuvaRing and other contraceptive information. Make an appointment today!

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