Vaginal Contraceptive Ring
A vaginal contraceptive ring, also known as intra-vaginal ring or V-ring, is a birth control device that delivers a low dose of hormones to prevent pregnancy. Once the small, flexible ring (approximately 2 inches in diameter) is inserted into the vagina, it releases a continuous stream of two types of hormones; a primary dose of etonogestrel, a progestin, as well as a low dose of estrogen.
These chemicals are then absorbed through the vaginal wall into the blood stream. The ring works primarily in the same way as combined oral contraceptives do, in that it stops the ovaries from releasing an egg; it also inhibits sperm penetration by thickening cervical mucus and making the uterine lining thin. However, it is not a physical barrier against Sperm, nor does it protect against Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections (STDs/STIs).
As a hormone delivery option, there are a number of vaginal rings available on the market, some that are used to treat vaginal conditions associated with menopause, and some as a form of contraception. In terms of the latter, 'Nuvaring' has become one of the most recognizable trademarks. A newer form of pregnancy prevention that was approved by the FDA in 2001 and released to the public in 2002, Nuvaring has become available in over thirty countries.
If used as directed, the ring (specifically Nuvaring) can deliver approximately 99% birth control effectiveness, similar to that of the birth control pill. Because a new V-ring only needs to be administered monthly, this method of pregnancy protection can be considered more effective than the pill, as there is less risk of a woman forgetting to take her daily dosage.
Action by the user is only required twice per cycle; once for insertion and once for removal. The ring is worn in the vagina for three weeks and then removed for one, at which point the user will undergo their menstrual cycle. This cycle is similar to the placebo week/non hormone week as with the birth control pill. Once an entire cycle has been completed, a new V-ring must be inserted.
Use of the V-ring is considered fairly straightforward and is meant to be self-administered. The exact placement of the contraceptive ring is not vital for it to be effective. It can be nestled near the cervix or in the upper wall of the vagina. In some cases, its presence can be felt by users and/or their sexual partners - but it is generally not thought to be uncomfortable or to ‘get in the way’.
In order to insert the device, simply squeeze the ring between the thumb and index finger, and gently slide it into the vagina. The muscles of the vagina will keep it in place, even during exercise or sex. In order to remove the ring, hook the index finger under the rim and pull to remove, or squeeze the ring between the thumb and index finger and slowly pull it out.
A woman can double check the placement of the ring simply by probing her vagina with a finger. This is recommended especially after sexual intercourse, tampon removal and strained bowel movements. During the three weeks that the V-ring is supposed to be worn internally, it may be taken out for up to three hours without losing its effectiveness; this provides plenty of leeway in case it does accidentally fall out, or if a couple wants to remove it during Intercourse.
Cost will vary depending on your local healthcare provisions. If you have a prescription from a doctor, it can be purchased at a pharmacy, drug store or family planning clinic. Health care plans and insurance may cover some or all of the cost at their discretion, so please check accordingly.
In addition to being extremely effective at preventing pregnancy (when used as directed), the ring is convenient, completely reversible (you can change your mind), easy to use, and requires infrequent action from users. Since it is small and very flexible, the ring comes in one size, which means that it does not need to be fitted by a health professional - as would a diaphragm or cervical cap.
The ring does not need to be adjusted for sexual intercourse. For many women, this form of pregnancy protection puts the spontaneity back into sex. Since it is effective and very reliable, users can worry less about getting pregnant and direct attention at ‘enjoying the moment’. As with The Pill, periods can be skipped, allowing women to control how often they menstruate.
Because the ring is a hormonal contraceptive, certain women will be able to enjoy the beneficial side effects of this method, including better skin; less menstrual cramps; menstrual regularity, as well as lighter, shorter cycles; and alleviation of PMS symptoms. Lastly, since the ring, specifically Nuvaring, delivers a small dose of estrogen, there is a lower known incidence of nausea and breast tenderness associated with menstruation.
Similar to the risks associated with oral contraceptive use, the vaginal contraceptive ring does carry a risk of cardiovascular side effects such as blood clots, which may lead to stroke or heart attacks. Certain factors increase these risks like cigarette smoking, particularly in women over thirty five, as well as users with a history of cardiovascular disease.
As with Birth Control methods that utilize synthetic hormones, users can experience a range of negative side effects similar to those of oral contraceptives: depression, anxiety, irritability, acne, bloating and abnormal hair growth known as hirsutism.
Break-through bleeding has been associated with the use of vaginal contraceptive rings. Common side effects also include headache, weight gain, nausea, changes in Menstruation, irritation, vaginal secretions (e.g. Leucorrhea), and vaginal infections such as vaginitis. Some users abandon use of a V-ring as a result of discomfort associated with having a foreign object in the vagina; accidental expulsion has also been cited as a reason for discontinued use.