The birth control ring is one of the many contraceptive options available to women. It is one of the safest birth control options although, as with any other contraceptive, it can have some side effects.
Choosing a birth control method that best suits your needs can sometimes seem a little overwhelming. Though the most commonly used contraceptive by women is the pill, there are several other options available, one of them being the birth control ring. This is a small, flexible ring, approximately 2 inches in diameter that is inserted into the vagina. It is safe to use this ring, although as with other forms of contraception, it has certain disadvantages, and women with certain preexisting medical conditions should not use it.
What is a Birth Control Ring
The birth control ring is a hormonal contraceptive, which when placed inside a woman’s body, releases the hormones estrogen and progestin. These hormones not only prevent ovulation, but also thin out the lining of the uterus, making it nearly impossible for an egg to implant itself to the uterus, and bring about a change in the cervical mucus by thickening it, which does not allow sperm to pass into the uterus. They also bring about a change in the composition of the mucus, which refrains the sperm from permeating the egg.
Once you start using the ring, you should continue to use it for three consecutive weeks, and then discard it. Start using a new ring after exactly one week, during which you will most likely get your period. In the event the ring is outside your body for more than three hours at a stretch during the three weeks, its effectiveness decreases even after you insert it back and it may not protect you against a pregnancy. In such a case, you need to use another form of contraception for a week even after you reinsert it.
The advantages far outweigh its risks, hence, is quite a suitable contraceptive. Let’s understand how beneficial it is in terms of a woman’s health.
- It works well for women who find it hard to remember to pop a pill everyday. It is much easier to use the ring as you need to insert it just once a month.
- The ring exposes the body to a lesser dose of hormones, as compared to the birth control pill, and is equally effective.
- Women experience shorter and pain-free periods once they are on the birth control ring. This also significantly reduces the chances of women suffering from iron deficiency and anemia, two of the most common causes of constant fatigue and weakness.
- Regular use of the ring can help clear up acne.
- The ring proves to be very effective at preventing an ectopic pregnancy, since it inhibits ovulation. An ectopic pregnancy can, in some cases, prove fatal to the mother.
- It greatly reduces the chances of ovarian and endometrial cancer. It also reduces pain and inflammation of the pelvis, and chances of developing benign breast and ovarian cysts.
- A possible health benefit is an increase in bone mineral density, which decreases the chances of getting osteoporosis.
A commonly reported disadvantage is that the ring sometimes falls out-of-place, but this is not of any serious concern as it can be reinserted without much of a problem. The other major disadvantage is that the ring does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
The ring is a relatively safe contraceptive, and most women in the prime of their health, with no prior medical conditions, do not suffer from any severe side effects when they use the ring. However, as with other medication/contraceptives, the ring has its share of side effects (as listed below) which are not considered as serious and usually clear up after a couple of months of use.
- Vaginal irritation and infection
- Nausea and vomiting
- Breast tenderness
- Dizziness and headache
- Weight gain
- Abdominal bloating
- Mood swings and/or irritability
- Irregular spotting between periods/changes in menstrual cycle
- Change in vision/difficulty using contacts
The ring is a type of combined hormonal contraceptive, since it uses both estrogen and progestin. The use of such contraceptives can have rare but serious side effects, which include:
- Blood clots
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart attack/stroke
- Breast cancer
- Liver cancer (extremely rare cases)
- Pancreatitis (in women who suffer from abnormal lipid metabolism)
These risks may be aggravated in cases where women smoke, suffer from diabetes, are obese, and have a family history of cardiovascular disease, or suffer from an existing medical condition.
Women who suffer from, or have previously suffered from any of the following ailments should not use the birth control ring.
- Heart attack/chest pain/any form of cardiovascular disease
- Any form of cancer
- Liver or pancreatic disease
In addition to the above, women who are pregnant, have recently had a baby and are breastfeeding or have undetermined bleeding between periods should not use the ring.
The birth control ring is available only upon prescription by a health care provider. Before you plan to use it, talk to your doctor about any safety issues and health concerns you may have. Tell the doctor about any and all medical conditions you have suffered or are suffering from, and whether you take any prescription drugs, multivitamins, or herbal supplements. Even though this ring is one of the safest forms of contraceptives, arrive at a decision on whether or not to use it only after a detailed discussion with your doctor and all your doubts have been answered.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and is not meant to replace the advice of a health care expert. Please consult your doctor for any medical advice you may need.