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Birth control options: the ring

The birth control ring NuvaRing is a hormonal method of birth control, like birth control pills or the Evra patch. The ring contains synthetic forms of the female hormones progesterone and estrogen. Each month, a new ring is placed in the vagina, where it releases a continuous low dose of hormones that prevent ovulation. It is left in place for three weeks, then removed. Seven days later, a new ring is inserted.

The ring is as effective as the birth control pill: about 99 per cent effective with perfect use. Some women may find it easier to insert and remove a ring once a month than to take a pill every day. The ring does not protect you and your partner from sexually transmitted infections.

Using the ring

The ring is about two inches in diameter and flexible. The woman inserts a ring into her vagina and leaves it in place for three weeks. After three weeks, the woman removes the ring on the same day of the week and at the same time it was inserted. For example, if the ring was inserted on a Monday at 7 a.m., it should be removed on Monday at 7 a.m. three weeks later. After a seven-day break, during which the woman will have her period, the woman inserts a new ring. The new ring should be inserted on the same day and time as the last ring was removed, even if the woman’s period has not finished.

It is possible that a ring may slip out, or be expelled from the vagina. If it has been out of the vagina for more than three hours, a back-up method of birth control, such as condoms, should be used until the ring has been in place for seven days in a row.


Some women have reported vaginal or cervical irritation when using the birth control ring. Other side-effects of the ring are similar to the side-effects seen with birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives. Some of the most common are headache, mood changes and nausea.

Like other hormonal methods of birth control, the ring is not a good choice for women over 35 who smoke, or women with a history of blood clots, heart attack or stroke.


  • very effective at preventing pregnancy
  • your period is regular and predictable
  • you don’t have to interrupt sex to use the ring
  • the woman controls this method of birth control
  • easier to remember than the pill


  • you are not protected against sexually transmitted infections
  • you need a prescription
  • it may slip out of the vagina
  • it can cause vaginal irritation
  • hormonal contraceptives can cause side-effects

This information is provided by Women’s College Hospital and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: Jan. 16, 2015

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