When it comes to side effects, using a birth control ring isn’t really all that different from taking birth control pills.
It uses the same hormones as combination birth control pills (estrogen and progestin, which is synthetic progesterone), but instead of being absorbed into your bloodstream via your stomach, the hormones are absorbed through your vaginal wall.
Like pills, the ring is safe for most, but being in the know about potential side effects is always a good idea.
Birth control ring side effects — if you experience any at all — are usually only temporary and not serious. They typically happen as your body adjusts to the hormones.
The most common side effects include:
You might also notice an increase in vaginal discharge and some irritation of your vagina or cervix. It is a foreign object in your body, after all.
And it needs to be mentioned that yeast infections can happen, too.
That’s thanks to the change in your body’s natural estrogen and progesterone levels, which hormonal birth control pills can throw out of whack. This can lead to an overgrowth of yeast. Certain lifestyle habits, medications, and conditions can increase the risk for yeast infections, too.
Most birth control ring side effects are NBD, but it’s important to know that some less common, but more serious, side effects have been reported.
- blood clots
- high blood pressure
- toxic shock syndrome
- liver problems
Everyone’s different, but side effects typically go away within 2 to 3 months as your body gets accustomed to the hormones, according to Planned Parenthood.
That’s right: Birth control ring side effects aren’t all bad.
It can also prevent:
Hormonal birth control is associated with a slight increase in risk for breast and cervical cancer. But it lowers the risk of other cancers, including:
- ovarian cancer
- endometrial cancer
- colon cancer
Finally, there’s the positive impact it can have on your sex life. Along with the peace of mind you get from being protected from an unwanted pregnancy, using a birth control ring seems to have other sexier side effects.
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Overall, birth control rings are safe for most and well-tolerated. But using birth control that contains estrogen can slightly increase your risk for certain health conditions, mainly blood clotting.
Blood clotting can lead to complications, like:
All that said, the risk of a blood clot from hormonal birth control is very low. You’d have a higher risk of a blood clot during pregnancy than while using the birth control ring.
Estrogen can also cause a slight increase in the risk for:
- breast cancer
- cervical cancer
- liver tumors
Birth control rings are generally safe, but, like with any medication, they’re not for everyone. Certain health and lifestyle factors increase the risk of serious side effects and complications.
For instance, if you smoke, or if you’re over 35, you’re at a higher risk for serious side effects, like:
- blood clots
- heart attack
Certain medical issues can also make it difficult to wear a birth control ring comfortably. For example, you might have trouble keeping the ring in place if you have:
You’ll also want to skip the ring if you have a history of these health conditions:
- blood clots, vein inflammation, or an inherited clotting disorder
- breast cancer
- cervical cancer
- serious heart problems, such as heart attack, stroke, or angina
- uncontrolled high blood pressure
- migraine headaches with aura
- liver disease
Talk with a healthcare professional about estrogen-free birth control options.
Birth control ring side effects are usually mild and temporary, and the risk of serious side effects is very low. Regardless, knowing what symptoms could indicate a problem is a good idea.
Get immediate medical care if you experience:
- chest pain, pressure, or discomfort
- sudden back or jaw pain accompanied by nausea, trouble breathing, or sweating
- trouble breathing
- fast or irregular heartbeat
- soreness or cramp-like pain in your leg
- swelling or soreness in the leg
- severe abdominal pain
- sudden severe headache
- headaches that feel different from, worse than, or more frequent than usual headaches
- visual disturbances
- coughing up blood
- yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
People have been safely using birth control containing estrogen and progestin for over 50 years.
The birth control ring is a safe and effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancy. If you don’t want to fuss with a birth control you need to remember to take every day, the ring could be a great option.
If you smoke, have a preexisting condition, or are worried about side effects, talk with a healthcare professional about your options.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.