QJSex: What the heck is a NuvaRing?

If you’ve walked through the Queen’s Centre or or Mac-Corry lately, you’ve probably noticed advertisements for a product called “NuvaRing”. While the ads certainly grab your attention, a glowing halo over a young woman’s head doesn’t tell you much exactly about what they want you to talk to your doctor about. So, what the heck is NuvaRing?

NuvaRing is hormonal birth control in the form of a small ring that is inserted vaginally and slowly releases estrogen and progestin into the bloodstream over a three-week period. The ring itself is about two inches in diameter, so nowhere near as large as the halos depicted in their ads. It works the same way that other forms of hormonal contraceptives do: the hormones it contains prevent ovulation (the release of an egg), meaning that (if used properly) there should be no egg for sperm to fertilize, and therefore no pregnancy. So what makes NuvaRing different than other forms of birth control?

You only have to take it once every three weeks

Just place the NuvaRing in the vagina and leave it there for three weeks. Then remove it for one week, during which you will have your period (it usually starts two-three days after removing the ring). After one week, place a new NuvaRing in for the next three weeks.

Hormonal birth control only works properly if you remember to take it at the same time when prescribed (once a day at 8a.m., once a week on Tuesdays at 7 p.m., etc). If you constantly forget to take your pill(s) at the proper time, then NuvaRing may be a more effective method of birth control for you.

It’s a low dose of hormones

Because the hormones in the NuvaRing are absorbed directly into your bloodstream from a mucus membrane (the vaginal walls), as opposed to digested or absorbed through skin, NuvaRing can use a much lower dose of hormones and achieve the same efficacy as other forms of hormonal contraception. If you’ve had bad reactions to hormones before, NuvaRing may be an option for you. (Note: everyone’s bodies are different, and a low dose of hormones isn’t a guarantee that you won’t experience adverse reactions.)

You may feel it during intercourse

You probably won’t feel the NuvaRing during everyday wear – the muscles of the vagina keep it in place, and as long as it isn’t pushed loose from a tampon or bowel movement, you’ll probably forget it’s even there. Depending on the location of the ring, the sizes of you and your partner’s genitals, and how sensitive you are, you may also find the same during intercourse. However, if you or your partner do find it uncomfortable (or perhaps just distracting) it can be removed for up to three hours and re-inserted.

NuvaRing isn’t covered by some drug plans, and there are no generic options

Many drug plans don’t cover NuvaRing and other less conventional hormonal options such as the patch and may only cover oral contraceptive pills. The AMS Health & Dental Plan, for instance, doesn’t cover any of the costs of NuvaRing (but does cover many other hormonal options at 80 per cent of the cost). Because NuvaRing is so new, the patent on this product hasn’t expired and generic versions won’t be available for several years. So, if you don’t have an alternate plan that covers NuvaRing, you could be looking at $60+ for a three-month supply.

You will need to put your hands in your vagina

The exact position of the NuvaRing doesn’t affect its efficacy (provided that it’s actually in the vagina). So you don’t need to be familiar enough with your vagina to place it specifically, but you do need to be comfortable handling your own genitals. If you’re taking hormonal birth control for off-label treatment of menstruation side effects, mood, etc., and aren’t comfortable enough with your body to insert and remove the ring yourself, then NuvaRing is definitely not for you. In addition, if you’re not comfortable with your own menstrual blood, keep this in mind. When you start NuvaRing for the first time, you should insert it on the first day of your period. When it’s time to insert a new ring after one week of it being removed, you’ll need to do it regardless of whether or not you’re still bleeding.

If you’re interested in starting NuvaRing, or any form of hormonal contraceptives, you’ll need to get a prescription from your doctor and have it filled at a pharmacy. Depending on when your most recent pap smear was, they may ask you to do one before starting hormonal contraceptives, so bear that in mind. Although the SHRC can’t dispense birth control, we can provide you with more information on your birth control options, help you figure out what to talk to your doctor about and provide a list of local pharmacies where you can have the prescription filled.

This may not cover all of your questions or concerns associated with NuvaRing, but at least now if you were intrigued by those ads, you have an idea of what to actually speak with your doctor about

This blog is being run in conjunction with the Sexual Health Resource Centre, located in the JDUC, room 223. Follow them on Twitter @shrckingston.

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