The Contraceptive Vaginal Ring

The contraceptive vaginal ring is a flexible, transparent, plastic ring, measuring 54 mm across and is 4mm wide.

It is placed inside your vagina where it releases oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones are similar to a woman's natural hormones or the combined contraceptive pill.

How effective is the contraceptive vaginal ring?

  • The contraceptive vaginal ring is over 99% effective if used correctly - this means that if 100 women followed the methods for one year, less than 1 of them would get pregnant.
  • However, there would be more pregnancies if the methods are not followed correctly.
  • It is more effective if you are taught by a family planning doctor or nurse.

How does it work?

  • The hormones are absorbed through your vagina and work in 2 ways:
    • It causes thickening of your cervical mucus so sperm cannot get through
    • It thins the lining of your womb so that there is less chance a pregnancy could implant and progress

  • The ring lasts for 3 weeks:
    • it is inserted at the beginning of your cycle (day 1)
    • It is removed after 3 weeks for a 7 day ring-free interval during which you will have your period
    • You then insert a new ring

  • You will be taught by your GP or family planning doctor how to insert and remove the ring

If you have any concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact your GP or family planning clinic.


  • You do not need to remember to take a pill everyday
  • The ring does not interrupt sex unlike condoms
  • Your monthly period should become lighter and less painful
  • It is easy to insert and remove with practice
  • It has all the advantages of the combined pill - for example, it may help to reduce colon, uterus and ovarian cancer, as well as benign breast conditions
  • The ring is absorbed vaginally so there will be less side-effects compared to taking an oral medication - for example, nausea
  • You can put 2 rings back to back and avoid a withdrawal bleed if inconvenient - please discuss this with your GP or family planning doctor

Disadvantages and Risks

  • Contraindications and side effects of the vaginal ring are identical to those of the combined pill. These include slightly higher risks of developing a blood clot, breast and cervical cancer - you can speak to your GP or family planning doctor for more information and advice regarding the risks involved.
  • The ring can break, move or fall out - there are guidelines on the Family Planning Association website to advise you what to do if this happens.
  • Rings must be inserted and removed on time - dates can be easily forgotten. There are guidelines on the Family Planning Association website to advise you what to do if you are late in changing the ring.
  • There is no protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • You or your partner may occasionally feel the ring during sex - but this will not cause any harm and should be minimal if it is correctly placed
  • You can experience breakthrough bleeding or spotting, especially when you first start using it
  • Antibiotics and other medication can affect the ring - always tell your GP or pharmacists that you are using the ring and read medication leaflets carefully
  • The vaginal ring is expensive - some GP surgeries will not prescribe it and advise you to attend a family planning clinic

Further sources on information

You can find further reliable information on the Family Planning Association website:
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