The vaginal ring is a type of contraception that works in a similar way to the oral contraceptive pill to prevent pregnancy. A soft, flexible ring is worn inside the vagina for three out of every four weeks. It slowly and steadily releases synthetic forms of the natural hormones oestrogen and progestogen. The vaginal ring can be a good option if you find it hard remembering to take a pill every day, or if you are not comfortable using contraceptive implants or intrauterine devices (IUDs). If used correctly, the vaginal ring is 99.7 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy.In Australia, you can buy the vaginal ring from pharmacies with a doctor’s prescription under the brand name NuvaRingTM
How the vaginal ring works
The vaginal ring works in a similar way to the oral contraceptive pill. It releases synthetic hormones that are absorbed by your body for three weeks, followed by a break for one week. During this week, you take the ring out and have a withdrawal bleed, which is similar to a period. After this break, you put a new ring in.
The ring sits high up in your vagina and does not need to be put in by a doctor. Do not take the ring out during its three weeks of use. If the ring falls out, put it in again as soon as possible for it to still be effective. If you leave it out of your vagina for more than 24 hours, it may not be effective.
If you forget to put the ring in, do so as soon as you remember and use an additional form of contraception (such as condoms) for seven days in a row. You may need to skip the ring-free break. If you have unprotected sex before the ring is effective again, emergency contraception is available from pharmacies without a doctor’s prescription.
The vaginal ring may not prevent pregnancy if:
- you are more than 24 hours late putting in the new ring after your period
- your ring has fallen out and you have not put it in again within 24 hours.
Advantages of the vaginal ring
Advantages of using the vaginal ring include:
- If used correctly, it is 99.7 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy.
- It is a good alternative if you find it hard remembering to take a pill every day, or if you are not comfortable using implants or IUDs.
- Compared to the pill, unscheduled (between periods) bleeding is less likely to happen.
- There is no risk of it not working if you have diarrhoea or vomiting because, unlike the pill, the hormones are not digested.
The vaginal ring is not suitable for everyone
Talk to a doctor before you start using the vaginal ring, as it is not suitable for all women. Do not use the vaginal ring if you:
- are breastfeeding (as it may decrease your supply of breast milk)
- have ever had deep vein thrombosis
- have had a stroke or heart attack
- have recently had breast cancer
- have certain liver disorders such as severe hepatitis
- have vaginal bleeding of an unknown cause
- have certain types of migraines.
Disadvantages of the vaginal ring
Disadvantages of using the vaginal ring include:
- It may cause side effects such as nausea, breast tenderness or soreness, unscheduled bleeding or headaches.
- Serious complications such as deep vein thrombosis (blood clots), heart attacks or strokes can happen, but are rare (this is the same for women taking the pill).
- Some medications and natural remedies, including St John’s wort, can interfere with the effectiveness of the ring.
Vaginal rings and STIs
The vaginal ring does not protect against sexually transmissible infections (STIs), so it is important to practise safe sex.
The best way to lessen the risk of STIs is to use barrier protection such as male and female condoms with all new sexual partners. Condoms can be used with the vaginal ring for oral, vaginal and anal sex to help prevent the spread of infections.
Other types of contraception
There are many different types of contraception available in Australia. A GP or reproductive health nurse can give you more information about your options.
When choosing a method of contraception, it is important to consider your general health, lifestyle, relationships and your current and future needs. It is also important to weigh up the benefits and side effects that may come with each method.
Where to get help
- 1800myoptions Tel. 1800 696 784
- Your GP
- Family Planning Victoria – comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services for people of all ages Tel. 1800 013 952 or (03) 9257 0100
- Family Planning Victoria Action Centre – comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services for people of all ages, with an afternoon drop-in clinic for people under 25 years of age Tel. (03) 9660 4700 or 1800 013 952
- Melbourne Sexual Health Centre Tel. (03) 9341 6200 or 1800 032 017
- Community health services and some hospitals have sexual health, women’s health, sexual and reproductive health or family planning clinics which offer contraceptive services
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Family Planning Victoria
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.