NuvaRing by Merck

Photo: Merck

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The Ring
What: The NuvaRing is a flexible, transparent ring that is inserted into the vagina once a month, where it releases a low dose of estrogen and progestin. To get a sense of how big it is, touch your pointer finger to your thumb to make the "okay" sign.
Failure rate*: 0.3–9%

Who: Women who are happy with the pill but have trouble remembering to take it every day.

  • After it's inserted, women can forget about it for the next three weeks.
  • The lower dose of estrogen means that side effects (like facial hyperpigmentation) tend to be less noticeable.
  • Some women find that the ring also makes their periods shorter and lighter.
Why not:
  • As noted on the NuvaRing inserts, cardiovascular risks may be higher with the ring than with some pills—especially for smokers and women over 35.
  • Carusi says that a lot of younger women are uncomfortable about getting personal with their vaginas, and the ring involves hands-on attention. Long fingernails can be a liability.
  • It occasionally makes its presence known during sex—and sometimes even slips out. To remain effective, it then needs to be rinsed with lukewarm water and reinserted within three hours.
  • "Many women think it's too expensive," says Carusi (co-pays vary, but the average cost is $34). Unlike the pill, the NuvaRing isn't available in a discounted generic version.
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.