Vaginal ring: Learn more about this contraceptive method

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The vaginal ring is a combined hormonal contraceptive method just like the birth control pill and, although it is a small object that should be inserted through the vaginal canal, it is not a barrier method like the diaphragm and female and male condoms.

Like the pill, the vaginal ring depends on the woman to achieve its high contraceptive effectiveness. What differentiates the ring and the pill is the way hormones are released and the likelihood of making mistakes during use. We consulted the gynecologist and obstetrician of the Porto Alegre Hospital das Clínicas, Murilo de Lima Brazan (CRM-SP: 161709), to give more details about this method.


Content Index:

  • What is the vaginal ring
  • How to use the vaginal ring
  • Advantages and disadvantages
  • Common questions

What is the vaginal ring?

The vaginal ring is a flexible, transparent, smooth-porous, non-absorbent silicone ring that is non-absorbent. Are its shape and size designed to facilitate insertion into the vaginal canal as it must be handled and inserted by the woman herself? they are about 5 cm in diameter and 4 mm thick.

It is a hormonal contraceptive method, meaning it works by releasing hormones into the woman's body. Obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Murilo de Lima Brazan explains that the ring is considered a combined method because it combines the use of two female hormones: progesterone and estrogen, both found in birth control pill formulas.


Read also: How to choose the best contraceptive

How does the vaginal ring work?

The ring works by releasing the hormones progesterone and estrogen directly into the bloodstream. This prevents the woman from ovulating and increases the thickness of the cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to rise. Like the birth control pill, does the ring release hormones for 21 days (though some birth control pills may contain 24 active pills) and ask for a break? that may or may not be respected? 7 days, when the woman removes the ring and replaces it with a new one.

Dr. Brazan confirms that wearing the ring does not dispense with the use of condoms because the method does not prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, STIs such as HIV, HPV, Hepatitis B and C, syphilis, etc. And it states that the ring is only recommended for women who have had sex with vaginal penetration, as it is inserted similar to an internal tampon.


Understanding how the method works is the best way to know if it is the right method for you. When in doubt, always consult a gynecologist.

How to use the vaginal ring?

For the first use it is advisable to instruct a gynecologist about the best day to insert the ring. To place the ring just squeeze it between the thumb and forefinger, forming an image similar to an 8, and insert it into the vaginal canal vertically until it reaches a flexible and very sensitive region just below the cervix, which will prevent discomforts.

The ring should be in this position for 21 days. After this period, it must be withdrawn. The woman then has two options: replace with a new one immediately, inhibiting menstruation; or replace after 7 days, creating the interval at which she will menstruate.

Read also: Contraceptive patch: Understand how it works, the advantages and possible risks

The appearance of the vaginal ring is similar to that of the diaphragm, but do not confuse them! They are completely different methods. Brazan explains that the diaphragm is a barrier method and works by physically preventing contact between sperm and egg, while the ring acts chemically to prevent ovulation. Thus, even in unprotected sex, the possibility of fertilization is very low (0.3%).

The gynecologist also states that there is no need to use another contraceptive method concurrently with the vaginal ring, except condoms. Because it is highly effective if used correctly, it is not necessary to associate it with barrier methods or spermicides, especially because the effectiveness of spermicides is one of the lowest among contraceptives.

Advantages and disadvantages

The advantages and disadvantages of using the vaginal ring are quite similar to those of other hormonal methods with some significant differentials.

Benefits

  • Cycle control;
  • Colic control;
  • Menstrual volume control;
  • Reduction of PMS symptoms;
  • Reduction of skin and hair oiliness;
  • Lower incidence of spotting? bleeding leaks mid-cycle;
  • Reduction of side effects of oral estrogen use? such as headaches and nausea;
  • Beneficial for bariatric surgery patients, as changes in the digestive tract may affect the absorption of oral medications;
  • Reduced likelihood of misuse as the ring is inserted once a month and does not need to be replaced for at least 21 days.

Disadvantages

  • Vaginal manipulation (because it can be a hindrance for some women);
  • Increased lubrication of the vagina (may be mistaken for discharge).
  • Vaginal Ring Frequently Asked Questions

    When dealing with the release of hormones in our body, we need to be careful and attentive, as both the lack and excess of hormones is harmful. In this process it is common for doubts to arise. We ask Dr. Murilo Brazan's help to answer the most frequently asked questions:

    1. To whom is the vaginal ring contraindicated? For women with a history of deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, infarction, stroke, uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension, women with breast cancer or over 35 years old, smokers or with serious liver disease, pregnant women and women who have use of anticonvulsant medications.

    Read also: Contraceptive Injection: Understand How the Method Works and Ask Questions

    2. Are there any side effects? Side effects are similar to those of the birth control pill as they use the same hormones as: headaches, decreased libido, belly aches and nausea and a higher incidence of vaginal infections.

    3. Can the vaginal ring be worn during breastfeeding? There is still much controversy in the medical community in this regard, so until studies confirm that there is no risk, it is not recommended to use combined hormonal contraceptive methods for at least 6 months during breastfeeding. However, even without breastfeeding, a woman should be allowed a minimum of 42 days to resume contraceptive treatment to reduce the risk of vascular problems.

    4. How to remove the vaginal ring? Just hold the rim with one or two fingers and pull it.

    5. How effective is the vaginal ring? If used correctly, its effectiveness is 99.7%.

    6. Can the vaginal ring be worn during sex? Yes! The ring is located just below the cervix, so it does not interfere with the sexual act.

    Read also: IUD: Ask questions and find out if it's a good fit for you

    Remember that it is essential to follow a gynecologist during treatment with contraceptives, especially hormones. Each body is different, so whenever you feel the need, consult a specialist. Insist on finding the best method for you, it is your health that is at stake.

    VAGINAL RING - Birth Control (January 2020)


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