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The Ring: It won’t get lost in there!

A roundup of the most common questions women ask about the ring.

by Nerys Benfield, MD

The vaginal contraceptive ring, aka the ring or NuvaRing, is an easy to use, safe, and effective birth control option. It’s a soft, flexible ring that you change once a month. When I discuss vaginal contraception with my patients, some are initially wary about using a vaginal birth control method and have lots of questions about it. These are the most common questions I hear, and my answers.

Q: How does the medication in the ring get into my system?

A: The tissue inside the vagina (called the mucosa), can absorb medications in the same way as the lining of the mouth and stomach. Taking medications by inserting them into the vagina is safe and effective, and gynecologists prescribe a variety of medications that are taken vaginally. Taking a medication this way also has some benefits. For example, the ring can avoid some of the stomach upset that the Pill can cause. The medications in the ring will also interact less with any other oral medications you take. If you’ve taken the Pill, you’ve probably been warned to use a back up method if you take an antibiotic—with the ring, that’s less of an issue. Also, because the hormones are directly absorbed into your system without first passing through the liver like the Pill, the dose of hormones in the ring is much lower than the Pill.

Q: How do I get the ring in and out?

A: If you’ve ever used a tampon, you can be an expert ring user. When you’re putting the ring in, twist it so it looks like an 8. Push the twisted ring with one finger as high in the vagina as possible. That’s it. To take it out, use one finger to hook the ring, and pull it out. In a large study with almost 6,000 women, more than 90% thought using the ring was easy and “without problems.”

Q: Is it uncomfortable?

A: Just like a tampon, once the ring is in place, it shouldn’t cause any discomfort. Getting it into a comfortable spot can take a couple of tries at first, but once the ring is settled, you won’t even notice it. Many women worry that the ring will be uncomfortable during sex. Some women leave it in during sex without any problems, and others prefer to take it out. Either way is fine. You can take the ring out for up to 3 hours a day—just put it someplace safe and clean, and don’t forget to put it back in.

Q: Could it get lost in there?

A: Not a chance! I get this question all the time... Thankfully, a vagina is not the Bermuda Triangle; it’s a closed pouch. The vagina does not connect to the rest of the belly, so things put in the vagina can’t travel to some other part of the body. There is no place for a tampon or a ring to go—they just sit right where you put them.

Do you have another question about the ring? Put it in the comments below and I’ll answer!

The ring is a good birth control option to consider, especially if you want a method that doesn’t require daily work. Studies show that the majority of women who use the ring like it and would recommend it to their friends. Ask your doctor about it for more information.

Nerys Benfield, MD MPH, is an obstetrician/gynecologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. She is the director of family planning services and specializes in contraception, working to promote contraceptive counseling and distribution locally and internationally.

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