The ring (brand names: Annovera and NuvaRing) is a small, bendable ring that you insert into your vagina. (It kind of looks like one of those jelly bracelets from the 80s, but it feels a tiny bit stiffer.) 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.
Types of Rings
Annovera is a white, squishy birth control ring that you can use for up to a year. You insert it into your vagina where you keep it for three weeks. At the end of the third week, you take it out for a week, wash it with mild soap and water, pat dry, and store in its case at room temperature. That’s usually when you get your period. At the end of the fourth week, you pop it back in and start the whole cycle again. After 13 cycles, it’s time for a new Annovera.
The NuvaRing is a clear, bendable ring that you insert into your vagina. (It kind of looks like one of those jelly bracelets from the 80s, but it feels a tiny bit stiffer.) You leave the NuvaRing in place for three weeks at a time, then take it out for the fourth week. That’s when you’ll usually get your period. At the end of the fourth week, you insert a new ring. There is also a generic version of NuvaRing that contains the same hormones.
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. And we can help you with that.
You’re 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.
Skipping Aunt Flo
If you want, the ring allows you to skip your period altogether, which BTW, is totally safe. Consider the possibilities!
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 anyone to know you’re using it, this could be a problem. Also, some partners say they can feel the ring when you’re having sex. If that’s a problem, you can take the ring out during sex— just make sure to put it back in within 3 hours, and only do this once within 24 hours.
A lower dose of hormones
The ring uses a lower dose of hormones than other methods, so there may be fewer 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?
Blood clots: should I be worried?
There has been lot of hype about the ring and blood clots. The truth is that for most people, your risk of blood clots while using the ring is still very low. There are some genetic and medical conditions that increase your risk, so check with a medical provider if you’re worried.
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) pretty darn quickly after you go off the ring. So don't take any chances. If you're not ready for a baby, protect yourself with another method.
Don't take our word for it. Check out the videos above to hear people talk about their experiences with the ring. And be sure to ask your health care provider which method is best for you.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, if you have health insurance, chances are good that you’ll be able to get this method with no out-of-pocket cost. If you don’t have insurance and you’re not on Medicaid, the ring averages around $55 a month.
- This method may be free or low-cost for you
- With Medicaid: Free
- With insurance: Free under most plans
- Without insurance: The full price of the ring can range from $30 - $75. Depending on your income, you may be able to go to a low-cost clinic to get the ring at reduced cost. BTW, the open enrollment period for 2016 is over, but you may still be able to get coverage. Find out if you could be eligible for special enrollment.
- Payment assistance: Check with your local family planning clinics to find out if they offer free or low-cost rings. Also, ask your provider for extra samples, or check out www.nuvaring.com and www.annovera.com for coupons.
How to Use It
The ring is really pretty easy to use. All you need to remember is the schedule for inserting and removing the ring—and we can help you with that.
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.
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.