Vaginal Ring

The vaginal Ring is small (2 inches), flexible, and made of non-latex plastic. You insert it into your vagina and keep it in for three weeks at a time. The Ring is then removed for seven days while you have your period, and then reinserted for the next cycle. The Ring is easily held in place by the walls of the vagina and most people don’t even feel that it’s there. You’ll need a prescription from your health care provider and you can pick it up at a pharmacy.

How to use it

To put it in, squeeze the Ring between your index finger and thumb and insert it into your vagina. It doesn’t matter where the Ring lies in the vagina as long as it’s comfortable. If you feel the Ring, push it in a little more. The pressure from your vaginal muscles will keep it in place. To remove the Ring, insert your index finger into your vagina, hook your finger through the Ring and pull it out. The Ring should stay inside your vagina at all times, even during sex and sports.

How it works

When the Ring comes into contact with your vagina, it releases the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are then absorbed into your bloodstream. The Ring works in the same way as the Pill, by stopping the ovaries from producing eggs (ovulation), thickening cervical mucus so sperm can’t enter, and thinning the wall of the uterus so a fertilized egg can’t implant.

Effectiveness

99% when used properly.

Advantages

You only have to deal with it at the beginning and end of a three-week time frame. There are no daily pills, needles, or weekly patches to think about. It will keep your menstrual cycle regular, and may reduce your menstrual flow, acne, and dark body hair. The Ring is easy to insert and is completely reversible (your period will return after you stop using it).

Disadvantages

The Ring doesn’t protect against HIV or STIs. Side effects are the same as for the Pill: bleeding between periods (spotting), tender breasts, headache, nausea or decreased sex drive. You may also experience vaginal irritation and increased vaginal secretions. Due to serious cardiovascular side effects from the hormones in the Ring, people who use it are highly advised not to smoke. If you have certain health disorders or a history of blood clots, you may not be prescribed the Ring.

Cost and coverage

The Ring is covered by most private health insurance plans, but you should know that if you use your parent’s drug plan, they may be able to see that information. It is also covered by:

  • EIA/social assistance
  • FNIHB (First Nations status) – FNIHB needs to approve it before you get it (your health care provider will need to justify why you can’t use another kind of birth control). You can call 204-983-8886 to make sure no one else can see your prescriptions.
  • Manitoba Pharmacare – If you have a Manitoba Health card and have no other coverage, there’s a good chance you can apply for Pharmacare to cover a good portion of your drug costs. Click here for more information.

If you don’t have any coverage, you may be able to get the Ring for free from your health care provider’s office or clinic, or you can call Women’s Health Clinic (204-947-1517) for information on their free/low-cost birth control program. Otherwise, the cost to just purchase the Ring is generally between $47 and $61 for a 3-month pack in Winnipeg (that’s about $16-$20/month).*

* This information is up-to-date as of 2014.