|Yes, it seems weird, but this thing will stop you from getting pregnant!|
The vaginal ring is a hormonal birth control method. It contains the same hormones as birth control pills do -- estrogen and progestin. This works to prevent pregnancy in two ways:
- preventing ovulation; ie, keeping the ovaries from releasing an egg (if there's no egg, there's nothing for the sperm to fertilize)
- thickening the cervical mucus, making it difficult for the sperm to swim and preventing them from reaching the eggs
How do you use it ?
The vaginal ring is easy to insert. First, wash your hands with soap and water. Next, take your ring and squeeze it together between your fingers (like the photo at the top of this article). Then, gently push the ring into your vagina -- the exact positioning of the ring doesn't matter, so don't worry about that.
There's no need to remove the ring during sexual intercourse, using the bathroom, or anything else. Once it's in, keep it in.
After you've inserted the vaginal ring, you leave it inside your vagina for three weeks. After three weeks have passed, you take it out, and then you leave it out of your vagina for one week. Three weeks in, one week out. To remove the vaginal ring, simply reach into your vagina and hook the ring onto your finger, then gently slip it out:
After three weeks have passed and you've removed the vaginal ring for your ring-free week, wrap the ring inside of its original tin foil and then throw it in the trash. This is important, because used rings can still sometimes contain hormones and you don't want any children or animals to take it out of the trash and play with it. It also reduces the chances of hormones seeping into any soil or water supply. After one week of not wearing the ring, you insert a new one.
The ring-free week is usually when you'll have your period. You might still have some bleeding when it's time to insert a new one, which is normal. But -- and this is very important -- the new ring must be inserted on the same day of the week as when you inserted the last one.
Got that? Let me say it once more: insert your new ring on the same day of the week that the previous one was inserted during your last cycle. If you put it in on a Thursday last time, you better put it in on Thursday this time too. If you don't do this, you might get pregnant. I suggest marking the days on a calendar to help you remember. Said calendar should look something like this:
|Leave your ring in for three weeks, out for one week, then get a new ring, leave it in for three weeks, you see where I'm going with this?|
Some people use the ring continuously so they get to skip out on their period. That is, instead of having a ring-free week, they just immediately replace their old ring with a new one. This is something you probably want to discuss with a doctor before deciding to do. If you use the ring continuously, it's normal to have spotting or bleeding for the first six months or so.
What happens if the ring slips out of your vagina or you make a mistake while using it?
Ah, mistakes happen. The world's an imperfect place. Pregnancy can happen if:
- the ring slips out of your vagina and isn't replaced within three hours
- you don't keep the ring inside your vagina for the full three weeks
- the ring is left in your vagina for longer than three weeks
- you forget to put a new ring in on time after your ring-free week
If you left the ring inside of your vagina for longer than three weeks, what you do next varies depending upon how long it's been.
If you've left it in for up to four weeks:
- Remove the ring
- Take a ring-free week
- Insert a new one after your ring-free week
- Remove the ring
- Try to remember if you've had vaginal intercourse more than four weeks after you inserted the ring -- since the ring only protects you for three weeks, you may be pregnant. You may want to take a pregnancy test.
- When you restart with a new ring, use a back-up method birth control method for a week.
If you need to use a back up method while using the vaginal ring as your primary method, you shouldn't use a diaphragm, a cervical cap, or a sponge. Having the ring in may prevent these from being properly placed in your vagina. If you need a back-up method, use a condom or spermicide (or both). You can also use emergency contraception (A.K.A "the morning after pill", or Plan B) to prevent pregnancy for up to five days after unprotected vaginal intercourse. This is a great option if you had vaginal intercourse before you realized your ring was not in place or had been in place too long.
It's important to keep in mind that the vaginal ring does nothing to protect you from STIs. Unless you are in a relationship where you know for a fact that everyone involved has been tested and is free of STIs, you should still use a condom when having sex.
Helpful tips and reminders:
- Always wash your hands thoroughly before inserting or removing your ring!
- Since the ring can slip out, it's not a bad idea to check on it now and again. A good time to do this is after having vaginal intercourse or after you've strained during a bowel movement (since the pushing can push it out of your vagina)
- Be mindful during sexual activity -- you don't want your partner to accidentally pull your ring out while fingering you