This post is a little different to my usual ones because I really wanted to write a post about contraception, seeing as it is a massive part of women’s lives.
It’s easy to read up on the side effects of different methods of contraception but I wanted to speak about my own personal, honest experiences of the method I use which is the NuvaRing.
Every persons body is different so of course you may not experience the same side effects as I have, or you may only experience a few, or completely different ones! I wanted this review to be 100% honest too, so I have spoken about everything that I have experienced, good and bad.
Recently, a lot of people have started to use contraceptive apps such as Glow, which allows you to track when you are most fertile by taking your temperature each morning and entering the data on the app. These apps are preferable for a lot of people, because you are not putting any chemicals and extra hormones into your body, however, a lot of women (including myself) suffer with hormonal imbalances and PCOS, so hormonal contraception can really help managing symptoms of these, such as extreme stomach cramps and excessive body hair growth.
What is the NuvaRing? 💙
The NuvaRing is a specific brand of a form of contraception known as the vaginal ring. It’s not very common because it is a fairly new method and isn’t usually the first method that nurses or GP’s will offer.
The vaginal ring is a small, plastic ring which looks a bit like a hair tye. It’s really flexible so can be squeezed in half to make it easier to insert.
The NuvaRing specifically contains 2 hormones: estrogen and progestin which are similar to the hormones found in the pill and the patch. There are a lot of forms of contraception which don’t contain estrogen as a lot of people prefer progesterone based methods, but personally I find estrogen based methods agree with my body more, and help with a lot of the symptoms which come with hormonal imbalance.
How does it work? 💙
The ring is inserted on the first day of your period and kept in for 21 days. When I say inserted, yes, I mean inside of your vagina… but trust me, it isn’t as bad as it sounds!
You have to squeeze the ring in half to make it smaller and insert it in the same way you would do a tampon. You have to use your finger to push it up as high as possible, and once it is fully inside it will ping back open into the ring shape, and will sit just below your uterus. At first I was really scared that it could go too far up and get ‘lost’ inside my body, but don’t worry it’s completely impossible! It also is painless, and once inside I really don’t notice it’s there.
The hormones are released in small amounts each day because of the temperature inside of the vagina, and these work to stop the body from releasing an egg, and build up the mucus inside of the vagina to stop sperm from being able to get through. When used correctly, it is more than 99% effective.
Where can I get it? 💙
You can get a prescription from your GP and collect it from the pharmacy, or they can give you a 3 month supply at your sexual health clinic. Bear in mind that some pharmacies will not hold it and have to order it in because it isn’t a common contraception method.
You can only be given a 3 month supply at a time because it must be kept in a fridge at a special temperature after a certain amount of time, so if you are running low, be sure to allow yourself time to stock up, with the possibility that your local pharmacy might not have it!
Pros of the NuvaRing 💙
My body got used to it very quickly:
I have had a lot of negative experiences with contraception in the past, especially with my body getting used to it because of the imbalance with my hormones. With the pill, I had a lot of cramps, spotting and severe mood swings which lasted for about 2 weeks. I got used the the NuvaRing after about a week, and the immediate effects I experienced were nothing like those I had when I went onto the pill.
Another great thing about the NuvaRing is that if your body doesn’t like it, you can remove it and the hormones are out of your system within 3 hours. This means that any negative reactions your body may have are short lived, unlike other forms of contraception such as the injection, which can take a very long time to dissipate.
Doesn’t interfere with my mood/mental health:
The hormones in the NuvaRing are delivered directly to the vagina, unlike other forms of contraception, which have to travel through the bloodstream and the brain. The pill had a really negative effect on my mental health and made my depression very severe, so the NuvaRing has been perfect for me in this area. It also expels a very small dose of hormone each day, so even if you do experience any mood related side effects, they will be very minimal compared to the pill or the implant.
You can forget about it for 3 weeks:
Once inside, the NuvaRing is left for 21 days, and honestly, the whole time it’s there you cannot feel it. It’s quite easy to forget to take the pill each day, so having a form of contraception which can be left and forgotten about for 3 weeks is really efficient.
Reduced period cramp pains:
Since using the NuvaRing, my period cramp pains have become so so much better! They used to be agonising and I had to take a special medicine, which I no longer have to take using the NuvaRing. I’m not exactly sure why this is (potentially something to do with the hormones) but it is definitely a benefit!
Much clearer skin & reduced hair growth:
Due to the imbalances in my hormones, I suffered with severe acne and hirsutism (excessive hair growth) for many years. The NuvaRing has literally helped this so much I can’t even explain. My skin is very clear now, and although I do still grow excess hair, it is a lot thinner, and grows a lot more slowly which gives me time between removing it – I honestly used to wax my upper lip roughly twice a week, and now I can go at least 10 days without needing to do anything!
Cons of the NuvaRing 💙
Uncomfortable to insert/remove the first time:
The first time I put my NuvaRing in I was so scared that it would get lost inside me or that I’d put it in the wrong hole (I don’t know how that would be possible), and I was too scared to try and take it out so I had to get my boyfriend to do it and I was crying and it was all tragic.
The most important thing is to relax because otherwise you will unintentionally clench your vaginal muscles and it will be really difficult to get it in or out. Try and get into a comfortable position to insert and remove it. For me, this is just standing up, usually in the shower, because I am really used to it now, but the first couple of times you might want to lie down or put your leg up on the sink. The most important tip I can offer is just RELAX!
I don’t think this is a common side effect, but I was literally constipated for 11 days. I have no idea why, and I was eating plentyyyyy of fibre…
I guess my only tip if you do get this side effect is to take some DulcoLax and stick it out! Give your body time to get used to the change in hormone levels. There will always be some kind of reaction, and you will have to allow your body to adapt to these changes. This can take up to 2 weeks but shouldn’t be severe at all from my experience.
Another side effect which I have noticed is that my periods are a bit heavier than they were when I wasn’t using hormonal contraception. The difference is not huge, but I have noticed that I get through a lot more sanitary products. This could be due to the change in hormones and my body adapting to these changes. When I was younger, I suffered from hypermenorrhea which is abnormal/excessive blood loss during periods, and they would last for up to 3 weeks. I think that going from taking medication for this, to having no medication and light periods, to additional hormones, my body has been a bit shocked and is still trying to get used to all the changes it is experiencing!
On the other hand, a lot of people do say that they have experienced lighter, shorter periods from using the NuvaRing, so I guess every body will react in a different way.
My advice if you experience heavy bleeding is to make sure you are prepared and have plenty of sanitary products available at all times, and if you are worried, speak to your GP and try to get some medication which can help to thin the blood or reduce the amount that you are bleeding.
Thrush is a common side effect of using the NuvaRing. This is because when you put something into the body which is foreign, the body takes a little while to try and comprehend what it is and during this process pH levels can become imbalanced.
It’s best to try and wait this out, even though it’s super uncomfortable. If it lasts for longer than a week, visit your GP and they can give you a pill which helps to clear it up. Try to avoid using a pessary or cream, because putting more things into the vagina is just going to make it more irritated.
Other effects 💙
I wanted to make a little paragraph talking about some of the other effects I have experienced which personally for me aren’t specifically pros or cons:
Increased appetite/weight gain:
In the near future, I will be writing a blog post dedicated to body image but to cut a long story short, weight gain has never really been a problem for me. The NuvaRing itself hasn’t caused weight gain but it has really increased my appetite. To begin with, this seemed like a huge increase but I think this was because I was under eating before. I’ve been using the NuvaRing for about 10 months now and I’ve gained around 2 and a half stone. I’m not sure if this is a lot of weight, but I have definitely had a much bigger appetite.
Increased breast size:
I have always had average sized boobs, but since using the NuvaRing I have gone from a C cup to an E cup. I think this may be because of the estrogen in the ring, which is known to increase breast size, or potentially from the weight I have gained generally. Personally, this is more so a con for me just because it can be difficult to find bras and it can be quite uncomfortable, but I’m definitely not complaining!
There are some precautions to take when using the NuvaRing because there is a slight correlation between the vaginal ring and an increased chance of blood clots. The NHS website advises that women over the age of 35 should not use this form of contraception, especially if they are a smoker. It should also be avoided if there is a history of breast cancer in your family.
The NHS & NuvaRing websites provide a lot of information about the vaginal ring, and I will link both of these below. There is also a helpful little booklet inside each packet with stickers to remind you when to insert and remove your ring.
I hope this post has provided some useful information and some advice from first hand experience of using the NuvaRing. My overall opinion is that it is a great form of contraception, especially for sufferers of PCOS and/or mental health conditions – the pros definitely outweigh the cons!
Always consult your GP or nurse before you use any contraception and like I said, these are my own personal experiences and every person will react differently! Also, the NuvaRing does not protect against STI’s, and of course you will only be protected if you use condoms.
Stay safe but have fun!
(NHS website link: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/contraception-guide/Pages/vaginal-ring.aspx)
(NuvaRing website link: https://www.nuvaring.com/)