Vaginal Ring: Side Effects, Risks & Effectiveness
What is the Vaginal Ring?
The vaginal ring is a soft, flexible piece of plastic that contains synthetic hormones to be absorbed inside the vagina. It is a hormonal method of contraception obtained by prescription.
How Does the Vaginal Ring Work?
The vaginal ring works through synthetic hormones that are absorbed from the vaginal ring into your reproductive system; these hormones help regulate your fertility in a similar way to how natural hormones work.
The vaginal ring prevents pregnancy in one of three ways:
- First, it prevents eggs from being released from the ovaries.
- Second, it thickens the cervical mucus, preventing the sperm from reaching the egg.
- Third, it changes the lining of the uterus, preventing implantation. This third method presents some ethical concerns that you may want to consider.
How Do You Use the Vaginal Ring?
The vaginal ring is inserted into your vagina where it remains for three weeks. It is removed during the fourth week to allow your menstrual period to occur. At the end of the fourth week, the process is repeated.
How Effective is the Vaginal Ring?
The vaginal ring has a failure rate of less than 2% when it is used correctly and consistently. In other words, when it is used correctly, less than 2 in 100 women will get pregnant. You should take a pregnancy test if you are experiencing pregnancy symptoms.
What are the Side Effects or Health Risks of the Vaginal Ring?
The vaginal ring has side effects similar to those experienced by users of oral contraceptives or other hormonal types of contraception which include:
The vaginal ring should not be used by women who:
- Have high blood pressure
- Have a history of breast or uterine cancer
- Have a history of blood clots
- Have a history of heart attack or stroke
- Are allergic to hormones
- Have diabetes
- Have liver disease
- Have unexplained vaginal bleeding.
When Should I Contact My Healthcare Provider?
Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Chest pains
- Redness, swelling, or pain in your legs
- Abnormal or irregular vaginal bleeding
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
- If you think you might be pregnant
Women who wish to use the vaginal ring should seek additional consultation with their physician if they are experiencing any of the following medical concerns:
- High blood pressure
- High risk for heart disease
- History of blood clotting conditions
- History of liver disease
Frequently Asked Questions About the Vaginal Ring:
Is the vaginal ring reversible?
Yes. Ovulation may return within a few days after discontinuing the ring; however it may take a few months for some women. Pregnancy should be possible when you stop using the vaginal ring.
How much does the vaginal ring cost?
There are two fees associated with the use of the vaginal ring:
- Your doctor’s visit
- The supply of vaginal rings
Office visits to obtain a prescription for vaginal rings range from $50 to $200. Each vaginal ring for costs approximately $30-$35.
What about vaginal ring and sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s)?
The vaginal ring does NOT provide protection against the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
When does the vaginal ring begin to work?
The vaginal ring begins to work immediately, but a second form of birth control should be used during the first seven days of your first month’s use of the vaginal ring.
Can I use the vaginal ring when I am breastfeeding?
If you have recently been pregnant or if you are breastfeeding, it is best to consult your physician for the best time to start using the ring.
What do I do if the ring comes out?
If the ring comes out, it is best to replace it right away. If you do this within 3 hours, no back up method should be necessary.
Where does the ring need to go?
The exact position of the ring in the vagina is not vital to it’s effectiveness, but read your instructions carefully to understand where the ring should be placed.
Pros and Cons of the Vaginal Ring:
The Pros of the Vaginal Ring include:
- Highly effective when used correctly
- Does not inhibit sexual spontaneity
- Minimal side effects
- You do not have to remember to take a pill each day.
- You do not have to go to the doctor’s office for a shot each month.
- It is reversible.
The Cons of the Vaginal Ring include:
- Does NOT protect against sexually transmitted diseases
- Requires a prescription
- Requires monthly insertion and removal