How does the vaginal ring prevent pregnancy?

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The vaginal ring prevents pregnancy by slowly and steadily releasing hormones to stop an egg from being released from the ovaries. The vaginal ring is a flexible ring that stays in the vagina for three to four weeks at a time.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, MD
Emergency Medicine
A vaginal ring is a flexible, plastic, hormone-releasing ring that a woman inserts into her vagina and leaves in place. NuvaRing is the only ring currently available in the US. It is kept in place for 3 weeks, followed by 1 week with no ring. During that 1 week, a woman has bleeding that is similar to a menstrual period. NuvaRing releases a continuous daily dose of two hormones: 15 mcg of ethinyl estradiol, an estrogen, and 120 mcg of etonogestrel, a progestin.

The vaginal ring works in the same way as birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. The hormones in the ring prevent the release of an egg from an ovary, called ovulation. They also cause the cervical mucus to thicken, which helps prevent sperm from entering the uterus and fallopian tubes. The vaginal ring releases lower levels of hormones than birth control pills or the patch. Some women prefer the ring because of its convenience. The exact position of the ring in the vagina is not important, so inserting and removing the ring is fairly easy. It can be removed for up to 3 hours without affecting its ability to prevent pregnancy.

The ring is inserted only once a month, so most women find that it does not interfere with sex. For women who have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, a vaginal ring may be a better choice than birth control pills. But you must still remember to remove the ring after 3 weeks and then insert a new ring 1 week later. 

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