How Does a Birth Control Ring Work?

How Does a Birth Control Ring Work?

Birth control doesn’t just give you control over whether or not you get pregnant — it gives you control over your future, too. About two-thirds of American women use some form of birth control, including vaginal rings, to help prevent unplanned pregnancies. 

At Women’s Health Services, our team offers an array of birth control methods so women at our two Arlington, Texas, offices have plenty of options. Although intrauterine devices (IUDs) and birth control pills seem to get all the attention, plenty of women like the vaginal ring. In this post, our team gives a quick overview of the ring, so you can decide if it might be a good choice for you.

Birth control rings: The basics

Also called vaginal rings, birth control rings are thin, flexible rings that you wear inside your vaginal canal. You insert the ring in the same way you insert a tampon. Once the ring is in place, it releases a steady “dose” of hormones to help prevent pregnancy.

Like other forms of hormonal birth control, the ring works in conjunction with your monthly menstrual cycle. The “ring cycle” begins the day you insert the ring. Insertion should always be within the first five days of your period (ideally, on the first day). 

You should always insert and remove the ring on the same day of the week to make it easier to remember. For instance, your period starts on Thursday, and you insert the ring that day. Three weeks later on Thursday, you remove the ring, then wait a week until the next Thursday. On that day, you reinsert the ring.

Hormones and birth control

The vaginal ring releases estrogen and progestin, two hormones that work together to prevent pregnancy in a couple of ways. First, these hormones help prevent ovulation (release of an egg), so there’s no egg to be fertilized.

Second, estrogen and progestin thicken the mucus plug that forms naturally at the opening of your uterus. Thick mucus makes it much harder for sperm to enter your uterus, preventing the sperm from reaching an egg.

Once the ring is inserted, it can take a week or so for the hormones to start working. During that time, it’s very important to use another form of birth control to prevent pregnancy. 

Pros and cons of the vaginal ring

One of the best ways to decide if the ring is for you is to familiarize yourself with the benefits and drawbacks of the ring.

Pros

The ring is easy to insert — just slip it in the same way you insert a tampon. It doesn’t need to be in a specific spot inside the vagina to be effective.

It’s comfortable. In fact, most women don’t notice the ring once it’s in place. If you do feel it, you can always slide it back a bit or remove it and reinsert it.

It’s secure — your vaginal muscles help hold the ring in place, preventing it from falling out. If it does fall out, you can reinsert it right away (just rinse it off in cool water first).

Cons

While vaginal rings are effective in preventing birth control, they’re less effective than other methods, including IUDs and arm implants.

You do need to remember to follow a set schedule and not deviate from it. If you don’t follow your schedule, you can become pregnant. 

Because it’s a hormone-based form of birth control, you might have some light vaginal bleeding and your breasts may be extra tender. You also might have some vaginal irritation, especially when you first begin wearing the ring.

Finally — and this is really important — like many forms of female birth control, the vaginal ring does not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). To prevent STDs, you should use a condom every time you have intercourse.

Birth control for your lifestyle

The best birth control method is the one you’re most comfortable using. Why? Because when you’re comfortable with your birth control, you’re more likely to use it — and birth control methods only work when they’re used properly.

At Women’s Health Services, our team works with every patient to help her choose the method that suits her needs, her lifestyle, and her future plans. To find out more about the birth control ring or other contraceptives, book an appointment online or over the phone today.

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