HEALTH & WELLNESS
Vaginal Ring: An Easy-to-Use Birth Control Alternative
Birth control is big business around the world, with millions of women and men looking for the perfect device/method/product/process to prevent pregnancy. While there are certain types of products or methods that are quite popular, there are quite a few other ones out there, which can be equally effective, with one of those being the vaginal ring.
How the Vaginal Ring Works
The vaginal ring is a hormonal form of birth control which uses small amounts of estrogen and progestin to trick your body into thinking it’s already pregnant. Like the IUD, the constant release of these hormones increases cervical mucus which prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg and may even prevent ovulation altogether. Since fertilization cannot occur, pregnancy cannot happen.
To use this device, all you need to do is insert the ring into your vagina next to your cervix – and you don’t even need a physician to do it.
On average, the ring’s effectiveness is 91% for most women, so using this device with other forms of birth control such as condoms is highly recommended. However, when applied and changed perfectly, the ring can be up to 99% effective.
How to Make the Ring Even More Effective
Utilizing the ring most effectively revolves around timing — when you put it in and swap out an old one for a new one. Methods you can use to carefully track your ring use include…
Marking on a calendar insertion and removal days, asking a family member, close friend, or partner to remind you when you should change your ring, setting up an automated reminder on your computer or using a birth control application to prompt you when to change and purchase new rings.
Furthermore, to keep your vaginal rings at peak effectiveness, store them at room temperature in a dry place and out of sunlight. At room temp, a package of vaginal rings will last up to four months. However, they can last longer, if stored in a refrigerator.
How to Insert and Remove It
Before handling a vaginal ring, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water. Then squish the ring between your thumb and pointer finger and insert it just as you would a removable tampon into your vagina. Alternatively, you can twist the ring and insert it, placing the ring is more comfortable for you that way.
If your ring slips out, you may not have inserted the ring properly. If you find applying the ring to be difficult, you may want to consult a gynecologist or a healthcare specialist, or you may want to try a different form of birth control.
After inserting, the vaginal ring is effective for three weeks and must be removed during the fourth week.
During the fourth week, simply hook your finger on to the ring and pull it out and replace it with a fresh ring to start the cycle over again.
What Are the Vaginal Ring’s Advantages?
As previously stated, this form of birth control, unlike IUDs or implants, doesn’t require a physician’s aid to insert or remove properly. In fact, it’s just as easy to put in or take out as an insertable tampon.
In most cases, this highly effective form of birth control doesn’t hamper the enjoyment of sex. In fact, if anything, it enhances it. After all, if you’re in a monogamous relationship and both you and your partner are tested and free of STIs, you can be fully intimate with each other without any barriers or additional prep work.
Moving on, vaginal ring use may also confer additional benefits besides protecting you from pregnancy. For one, the ring may shorten your menstrual cycles and lighten your periods, too. Further, this device might protect you from terrible health problems including anemia, bone thinning pelvic inflammatory disease, cysts in the breasts and ovaries as well as ovarian and endometrial cancer. Plus, the ring has been shown to even clear up acne.
Lastly, if you decide you want to have children you can stop using the ring, wait a couple of months, and your body’s readiness should be fully restored.
Remember, while the ring is an excellent form of birth control, it does not prevent the transmission of any sexually transmitted diseases.
Are There Any Complications or Side Effects?
Yes, like other forms of hormonal birth control, the vaginal ring does have some side effects. However, most of these diminish as your body acclimatizes to the effects of the ring.
For the first two or three months, you may bleed between periods and have tender breasts along with feelings of nausea coupled with vomiting. Other side effects which may persist for a longer period include an increased vaginal discharge or irritation. If the discharge you experience is particularly persistent or leads to infection, see a physician right away.
Although rare, your sex drive may be affected as well.
Further, when having sex with a man, he may say that the ring makes sex uncomfortable. Fortunately, you can remove the ring before sex, and the pregnancy-preventing effects of the ring will still be effective so long as you re-insert the ring within three hours after having intercourse.
What Does the Ring Cost
Throughout the world where the ring is available, it is typically very affordable. In countries with nationalized healthcare or which have subsidized healthcare support for those of low income, you may be able to get the ring for free.
Similarly, major health insurance firms and private family planning clinics also provide the vaginal ring for free or at an adjusted cost.