10/23/09
Everything You Need to Know About the Nuva Ring

Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City and she answers your medical questions here once every two weeks. To ask her your own question (not about the Nuva Ring, please), click here.

When it comes to hormonal birth control, I get more questions about the NuvaRing than any other method — for proof, just check out the comments sections of my posts “Tell Me About the Nuva Ring” and “Does the Nuva Ring Deserve Its Bad Press.” The ring just doesn’t seem to be as intuitive as the once-a-day-every-day tyranny of the birth control pill. Most women’s questions focus on the timing of the ring, and what happens if their schedule gets thrown off. So, since Em & Lo have put a moratorium on Nuva Ring questions for the time being, here are the 14 points about the Nuva Ring that should hopefully answer any and all questions.

1. When to start it: You can start the ring any time you want…

  • If you’re starting it with your period, put in the ring during the first 5 days of bleeding.
  • If you’re starting it later than that, or totally off your period, take a pregnancy test first. If negative, begin the ring that day.
  • If you’re switching to the ring from the pill or patch (and you completed your pack of pills/box of patches), you can place the ring on the day you would have started your new pack of pills or box of patches.

2. How soon you’re protected: It depends on when you started the ring…

  • If you place the ring on the first day of your period, you’re protected immediately.
  • If you started the ring at any other time, you need to use condoms for 7 days for maximum contraception protection.
  • If you directly switched from the pill or patch to the ring (and you completed your pack of pills/box of patches), you’re protected immediately.

3. The minimum you must leave it in: The ring needs to be in your body for 3 straight weeks. Don’t take it out early if you start bleeding earlier than you expect — the ring needs its three weeks to work. If you remove the ring before the three weeks are up, you’re at risk of pregnancy that cycle.

4. The maximum it can stay in: The ring has enough hormones so that it may be left inside for up to 5 weeks and still be effective. So you’ve got lots of flexibility in how long the ring is in. And you don’t need to use the ring for the same amount of time each cycle — some months you may leave it in 3 weeks, some up to 5 weeks — your body will adjust. But if it’s left in longer than five weeks, you’re now at risk of pregnancy.

5. How long you can leave the old ring out before you put a new one in: When switching between old and new rings, the device cannot be out of your body for more than 7 days — in other words, you need to put a new ring back in by the same day of the week that you removed the old one. This rule holds even if you’re still bleeding — the new ring must be reinserted within a week. (If you want to shorten your ring-free week and, say, put a new one in after 3 or 4 days, that’s fine — you’ll still be protected.)

6. When it’s out for that one week, you’re protected: If you’ve used the ring following these guidelines, you’re still protected against pregnancy during the ring-free week. The ring has suppressed ovulation for that cycle, so you don’t need a back-up method of birth control during the ring-free week (though condoms are always a good idea for infection prevention, whether the ring is in or out).

7. Temporarily taking the ring out for three hours or less:
The exception to rule #3: you can remove the ring for up to 3 hours at a time and still be protected against pregnancy. For instance, you can take it out for a gyno visit, sex, or masturbation (some people don’t like the idea of playing ring toss in their vagina), but in each of those cases it isn’t necessary to do so.  There are no studies that tell us how often you can take a ring holiday; I counsel my patients that they can remove the ring once a day for 3 hours and are likely still safe.

8. Taking the ring out for more than three hours:
If it’s out for more than 3 hours, it’s possible that your ovaries will respond with a quickie ovulation. So put the ring back in and use condoms for a week.

9. If you’re late putting a new ring in:
If the old ring has been out for more than 7 days, put the new ring in anyway. Don’t wait for your period to start (so many women become pregnant while they’re waiting!). Then use condoms for 7 days.

10. Using rings back-to-back. You can use a new ring directly after taking out the old one — you don’t need to leave a ring out for any length of time, you don’t need a back-up method, and you can do this indefinitely (no need to ever bleed).

11. Bleeding patterns: It’s normal to have irregular spotting or bleeding during your first few months on a new birth control method. Don’t pull the ring out if you begin to bleed early — it doesn’t mean the ring is “finished,” it’s just breakthrough bleeding while your body is adjusting.

12. Other things in your vagina: Fingers, penises, tampons, sex toys, semen — all okay.

13. You can’t lose it in your body.
As long as the ring is all the way in the vagina, and it feels comfortable, you’re good to go. It doesn’t need to be in a particular place to work, and it won’t go in too far.

14. Risk of pregnancy: If you have sex without using the ring correctly, you are at risk of pregnancy. Take a pregnancy test if your period doesn’t come when you expect.

Dr. Kate of Gynotalk is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City. She also lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. 

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94 Comments on "Everything You Need to Know About the Nuva Ring"

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veronica
veronica
2 days 6 hours ago

This is my first month of using the nuvaring. It’s due to come out this coming su day but I already got my period this past Friday. Do I keep the ring I and take it back out on Sunday. And will I get my period again. As well as when do I put it back in if I already had my period this month.

Dr. Kate
Dr. Kate
6 hours 59 minutes ago

hi Veronica – even if your bleeding started early, leave the ring in until your scheduled removal day. And put in a new one no more than 7 days later. Your ovaries need to be suppressed for the full 3 weeks, and they’ll “wake up” if you delay putting the ring back in. Don’t worry about the bleeding – it’s normal for your body to be a little irregular in the first three months of a new birth control method. It will normalize soon!

pensylvania
pensylvania
9 days 2 hours ago

Can I put the ring while being a virgin. Before having sex for the first time?

Dr. Kate
Dr. Kate
6 hours 58 minutes ago

You absolutely can! Using a little bit of lubricant will probably help – and it’s a good idea to use lube the first time you have sex, too.

Leeann
Leeann
3 months 1 day ago

I’ve got a question I put my first nuva ring in right after my period ended. I took it out about a week later and I got bloated and started hurting with bad cramps and started bleeding. The thing is I’m not even supposed to start my period until like 3 weeks from now. Why is this happening?

Dr. Kate
Dr. Kate
6 hours 57 minutes ago

Hi Leeann – the brief exposure to hormones after your period might have thrown off your cycle for the month. Even though the hormones are out of your system in a few days, this cycle may be a little crazy. If you don’t restart a hormonal birth control method, your cycle should return to normal next month.

Kat
Kat
3 months 12 days ago

Bleeding during sex it ever happened before?

Dr. Kate
Dr. Kate
6 hours 56 minutes ago

Bleeding during sex can be a sign of an infection or a polyp in your cervix. If it happens again, see your gyno.

Cera
Cera
3 months 14 days ago

So I took my ring out for sex and forgot to put it back in for a few days. Can I put it back in for the rest of the cycle or should I wait till after my period to start it again?

Dr. Kate
Dr. Kate
6 hours 56 minutes ago

I would put it back in for the rest of the cycle, but use a back-up method for a week to be sure.

amie
amie
4 months 1 day ago
Okay I took the Nuva ring out on week 4 instead of week 3 didn’t have my normal period at all I had some brownish colored sporting. Took a pregnancy test came back negative I also had unprotected sex with my boyfriend the day I took Nuva ring out also I was a week late in putting it in cause of the unusual spotting so my dr did a test they told me to take it out so the new one was out for 5 hours and me and my boyfriend had unprotected sex New Year’s Eve could I be… Read more »
Zeenat
Zeenat
5 months 9 hours ago

I bought the nuvaring, put it in and took it out the same day! Can I put it back on the next day again and be protected?

Meesha
Meesha
2 months 11 days ago

I did the same thing last night. What did you do? Im not sure if its okay if i re insert it even tho i only had it on for about 10mins before i took it out

Dr. Kate
Dr. Kate
6 hours 55 minutes ago

The ring needs to be in your body for a week before the protection kicks in. So it’s okay to replace it quickly, but you need to use a back-up method for the first week to be safe.

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