How to use the ring
The vaginal ring is a simple and very effective method of contraception. You need to remember to change it once every 3 weeks.
How to get the ring:
To get started with the vaginal ring, you can:
order for free from SH:24
make an appointment with your doctor - find a local GP in the UK
make an appointment at your local sexual health clinic
To be sure it’s right for you, you’ll be asked about:
your medical history
if you smoke
your blood pressure
your height and weight
your close relatives’ health
A clinician will explain the risks and give you a chance to ask questions.
If you order the ring from an online service, you’ll be asked to measure your blood pressure and provide your height and weight to calculate your BMI before you're prescribed the ring.
What will you get?
There are 9 rings in each box and these should last 3 months. If it’s your first time using the ring, you’ll usually get a 3-month supply.
After 3 months, you’ll need to book a follow-up appointment where you’ll have your blood pressure checked and discuss any side effects. You can then get enough to last you 6 or 12 months.
When can you start using it?
You can start using the vaginal ring at any time.
If you use it in the first 5 days of your period, you’re covered immediately because the ring stops ovulation. At this time in your cycle, you haven’t yet started to ovulate and the ring has time to take effect before you ovulate again.
If you start it after the first 5 days of your period, you’ll need to use additional contraception – such as condoms – for the first 7 days, because the ring takes 7 days to stop ovulation.
If there’s a chance you might be pregnant, you should wait until your next period before starting to use the ring. If you have irregular periods, wait 3 weeks after your last pregnancy risk, and then take a pregnancy test. If it’s negative, apply your first ring.
Have you taken emergency contraception this cycle?
When you can start the ring depends on what type of emergency contraception you’ve taken:
if you’ve taken levonorgestrel emergency contraception, you can start using the ring straight away
if you've taken ulipristal acetate emergency contraception, leave it 5 days until starting the ring because the ingredient ulipristal acetate can interact with it and make both medications less effective
Either way, take a pregnancy test 3 weeks after starting the ring.
3 ways to use the ring
You can choose to use the contraceptive ring in 1 of 3 ways:
with a bleed every month
with a break for a bleed a few times a year
with no breaks or bleeds at all
To bleed every month
insert your ring and wear it for 3 weeks
then have 7 days without a ring inserted – during this time, you should have a bleed
after 7 days without the ring, insert a new ring (even if you’re still bleeding) and repeat the cycle
To bleed a few times a year or not at all
insert your first ring and wear it for 3 weeks
continue to change the ring to a new one every 3 weeks without a break
when you’re ready, have 7 days without a ring and you should bleed (you can only do this if you’ve used the ring for at least 3 weeks in a row)
What can you do to make the ring most effective?
The biggest pregnancy risk when using the ring comes from forgetting to replace it just before or after a 7-day break. If you don’t use a new ring for 9 days you can start to ovulate, which means it’s possible to get pregnant at that time.
If you’re not confident about keeping track of the break, you could skip it or have a 4-day break instead.
Problems with irregular bleeding
If you use the ring continuously without a break and you’re experiencing bleeding that lasts for more than 4 days, then you might want to remove the ring for 7 days before inserting a new one.
Only do this if you’ve already used a ring for 3 weeks continuously.
Everything you wanted to know about sexual health and wellbeing - your questions answered by our expert team.