Sex

Sexual health 101: Everything you need to know about the vaginal ring

It's all in the name.

By Kate Wagner

When it comes to birth control, we've all heard the horror stories from our friends, or their friends, or urban legends, but we should all get better educated about contraception.

Jenny may have gotten really bad acne from the contraceptive implant, and Betty(?) might swear she put on weight from the pill, but that definitely doesn't mean you will. It's 100% worth exploring different forms of birth control a go even if it sounds really bloody weird.

(No such thing as too many blood puns when it comes to period chat.)

Speaking of the weird and wonderful, let us introduce the vaginal ring.

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What in the name of BEYONCÉ is a vaginal ring?

It's a soft plastic ring which contains both oestrogen and progestogen – just like the Aussie favourite, the combined pill.

You pop it in your vagina and the hormones are absorbed into your body to prevent pregnancy. The only brand available in Australia is called NuvaRing

How does it work?

Once the ring's in your vagina, it should stay in place for three weeks and then you leave it out for one week. Most women don't feel the ring once it's in place and your doctor or nurse will let you know when to start using your first one.

It actually works by absorbing the hormones through your vaginal wall through ovulation.

How effective is the vaginal ring?

With perfect use, it's more than 99 per cent effective, but with typical use it drops to around 91 per cent.

Does it interfere with sex?

If it's in properly, most people don't feel it all during sex.

We know it sounds a bit out there, but so did the combined pill when it first came into existence so...

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We chatted to Dr Deborah Bateson, Medical Director at Family Planning NSW, about the good and the bad of vaginal rings.

"Due to the duo hormones, it has a lot of the same pros and cons as the combined pill. The oestrogen also means it can't be used by women who:

• Have had a deep venous thrombosis (blood clot in a vein), stroke or heart attack.
• Have severe liver problems.
• Have certain types of migraine.
• Are over 35 and smoke.
• Have had breast cancer.

"You don't have to remember to take a pill every day but you did need to remember to change it after three weeks."

"The ring doesn't need to be fitted by a doctor because there's only one size and when you stop using it, your fertility levels go back to a normal level very quickly.

"Compared to most combined contraceptive pills, the vaginal ring provides a relatively low dose of hormones," she explained.

"Like the pill you can also skip periods by putting a new ring in straight away after removing the first one after three weeks.

"It can be a more expensive contraceptive option because it's not PBS listed and some women have trouble keeping the ring in place.

"If it does fall out, simply wash it and put it back in in less than 24 hours and you'll still be covered for contraception. If it's out for more than 24 hours, rinse it and put it back in as soon as you remember but use another form of contraception, like condoms, for the next seven days," Dr Bateson advised.

"If it's more than 24 hours during the third week, put in a new ring immediately to start the next three weeks of use."

You might not have any friends who have used the vaginal ring before, so we talked to some ladies who have.

And kids, remember:

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