EBSCO Health

Print PageSend to a Friend
Health Library Home>Wellness Centers>Sexuality & Health>Article

The Vaginal Ring: An Alternative to Birth Control Pills

The vaginal ring is a thin, colorless, flexible ring that is inserted into the vagina for 3 weeks and is then removed for 1 week while the woman has her period. Low doses of estrogen and progestin are continuously released from the ring, which is replaced monthly. Like birth control pills, the vaginal ring is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, though its effectiveness decreases if used improperly.

The Advantages

Advantages of the ring include:

The Disadvantages

Disadvantages of the ring include:

Some serious side effects of hormonal contraceptives like the vaginal ring include blood clots in the legs, lungs, stroke, and heart attack. Smoking increases these risks. These risks are similar to many other types of hormonal contraception. Talk to your doctor about all possible side effects.


Certain drugs, such as antibiotics, antiseizure drugs, tuberculosis (TB) medications, and migraine medications can affect the effectiveness of the vaginal ring. The herb St. John's Wort can also interfere with effectiveness of this ring. Talk to your doctor about all of the medications and supplements you are taking.

If any of the following symptoms occur while you are wearing the vaginal ring, contact your doctor right away:

Do not use the vaginal ring if you might be pregnant or are breastfeeding. It is also not advised for women with the following health concerns:

Other Things You Should Know About Vaginal Rings


US Food and Drug Administration

Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services


The Canadian Women's Health Network

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada


Birth control vaginal ring (NuvaRing). Planned Parenthood website. Available at: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/birth-control-vaginal-ring-nuvaring-4241.htm. Accessed March 29, 2016.

Combined hormonal birth control: pill, patch, and ring. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Combined-Hormonal-Birth-Control-Pill-Patch-and-Ring. Published July 2014. Accessed March 29, 2016.

Contraceptive patch and vaginal rings. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 3, 2014. Accessed March 29, 2016.

How does it NuvaRing work? Nuvaring website. Available at: http://www.nuvaring.com/Consumer/how-it-works/index.asp. Accessed March 29, 2016.

MacGregor EA. Contraception and headache. Headache. 2013 Feb;53(2):247-276.

Vaginal ring. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/preventingpregnancy/vaginal-ring/. Accessed March 29, 2016.

Last reviewed March 2016 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 5/15/2014