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Updated May 21, 2014

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Photo © 2014 Dawn Stacey

NuvaRing Definition:

The NuvaRing is a type of reversible prescription birth control. It consists of a comfortable, flexible contraceptive ring that is about 2 inches in diameter and is used to prevent pregnancy.

How To Use NuvaRing:

The NuvaRing is inserted into the vagina one time a month. The muscles in the vaginal wall will keep the ring in place for 21 days. The ring is removed by the woman after 3 weeks, which allows for her to have her menstrual cycle. She can then insert a new NuvaRing (once the week is over) to continue to be protected against pregnancy. The ring must be inserted on the same day of the week as it was inserted in the last cycle or pregnancy may occur.

How NuvaRing Prevents Pregnancy:

The NuvaRing is a combination hormonal option that slowly releases a low dose of synthetic estrogen and etonogestrel (a progestin) to protect against pregnancy for one month. The release of hormones is activated by contact with the vagina, so the walls of the vagina absorb the hormones and distribute them into the bloodstream.

NuvaRing Advantages:

  • It is simple, comfortable, and safe.
  • Exact position is not important for NuvaRing to be effective.
  • Using the ring is convenient as it does not need to be taken daily (like the pill).
  • Due to the low and steady hormone delivery, the ring has fewer hormonal ups and downs than daily or weekly birth control methods.
  • NuvaRing is discreet – nobody will know that you are using it, and it usually cannot be felt by you or your partner.
  • It does not need to be fitted by a doctor.
  • Can lead to regular, lighter, and shorter periods.
  • Completely reversible – the ability to become pregnant returns quickly after stopping use.
  • NuvaRing does not interfere with having sex and can allow for more spontaneity.

Non-Contraceptive Advantages:

It is assumed that the NuvaRing may offer some of the same non-contraceptive advantages as the pill. Further research is being conducted on this. Some of these additional benefits may include protection against:

NuvaRing Disadvantages:

There is a low incidence of side effects for those women who choose to use the NuvaRing. These side effects will usually go away after 2-3 months of use and may include:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Nausea
  • Changes in mood
  • Breakthrough bleeding (lower incidence as compared to the pill)
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal irritation or infection
Other disadvantages associated with the NuvaRing are:
  • Women cannot use a diaphragm, cap, or shield as a back-up method of contraception while they are using the ring.

  • Women with a history of depression may not be able to continue to use the ring if their depression worsens.

Who Can Use NuvaRing:

This type of contraceptive can be a safe a birth control option for most healthy women. It is important that a woman discuss her complete medical history with her healthcare provider before using the NuvaRing.

Typically, serious problems do not occur very often with hormonal contraceptive use. Some women could still use the ring even with certain risk factors as long as they remain under close medical supervision.

The ring is not recommended for women who have:

  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Smoke cigarettes and are 35 or older
  • A history of serious heart valve problems
  • Had a heart attack
  • Had an abnormal growth or cancer of the uterus or breast
  • Controlled blood pressure and smoke more than 15 cigarettes a day
  • A history of blood clots or vein inflammation
  • Certain types of migraine headaches
  • Need prolonged bed rest after major surgery
  • A history of severe liver disease or liver growths
  • Weak pelvic floor muscles
  • Chronic constipation
  • Certain vascular conditions
  • A history of certain inherited blood clotting disorders
  • Had certain types of stroke

How to Obtain:

In order to obtain a prescription for the NuvaRing, a woman has to have a medical evaluation, blood pressure check, and pelvic exam by a physician. Women can then have the prescription filled at a local pharmacy.

Costs Associated with the NuvaRing:

Although prices vary from area to area, the typical cost for the ring is approximately between $30 and $35 a month (plus the expense of having a medical examination in order to obtain the prescription). In many communities, Medicaid covers the cost for this contraceptive method. A woman should check with her private health insurance policy as coverage for NuvaRing should be covered with no out-of-pocket costs for all non-grandfathered insurance plans.


The NuvaRing is 92% to 99.7% effective. This means that with perfect use, less than 1 out of every 100 women who use the ring will become pregnant in one year. With typical use, 8 out of every 100 women who use the ring will become pregnant in one year.

Certain medications may also decrease the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives like the ring.

The effectiveness of the NuvaRing can also be lowered due to user error. A woman may be more at risk for pregnancy if:

  • The ring does not stay in the vagina for 3 weeks in a row
  • If the ring is left in the vagina for more than 3 weeks
  • The ring slides out of the vagina and is not replaced within 3 hours
  • The unopened NuvaRing package is exposed to direct sunlight or very high temperatures.

A woman should read the insert inside the package for more detailed information about the use, risks, and effectiveness of the ring.

STD Protection:

The ring offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections.

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