How effective is a vaginal ring in preventing pregnancy?

Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, MD
Emergency Medicine
The vaginal ring is about as effective as birth control pills that combine estrogen and a progestin. Fewer than 1% of women who use the ring exactly according to directions become pregnant during the first year. But not all women use it perfectly. With typical use, the pregnancy rate is about 9%. 

The ring does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. 

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The vaginal ring is very effective in preventing pregnancy. When used correctly it is up to 99% effective.

The ring is inserted into the vagina and left in place for 3 weeks. The hormones estrogen and progesterone in the ring are absorbed through the vaginal walls. The ring comes in one size and does not need to be located in a specific place in the vagina. After 3 weeks of continuous use the ring is removed for a week and this is when you will experience menstrual bleeding. After one ring-free week a new ring is inserted.

A major advantage of the ring is that it is a non-daily method and it does not need to be removed for sexual activity. It takes one week of use before the ring will provide protection against pregnancy. During the three weeks of use if the ring is removed for longer than three hours a back-up method of birth control needs to be used. 

Minor side effects of this method include irregular bleeding, headache, nausea and some increased vaginal discharge. Most of these side effects are temporary and go away after the first three months of use. A major serious risk of the ring is a blood clot and this risk is higher among women who smoke and use the vaginal ring. Also, the vaginal ring does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or HIV. 

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Vaginal Ring

Vaginal Ring

The vaginal ring is a contraceptive device inserted and left inside the vagina for three weeks, during which time estrogen and progesterone hormones are absorbed from the device. Your doctor will try to find the most effective, lo...

west dose and use it for the least possible time to prevent side effects. When used correctly it is up to 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.