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What Is Etonogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol Vaginal Ring Used For?

Etonogestrel/ethinyl estradiol vaginal ring is a common method of hormonal birth control. It is similar to oral contraceptives, except it comes in the form of a flexible vaginal ring that is inserted once a month. Healthcare providers may also occasionally recommend the contraceptive for off-label uses. Off-label etonogestrel/ethinyl estradiol vaginal ring uses may include the treatment of painful, heavy, or irregular menstrual periods.

An Overview of Etonogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol Vaginal Ring Uses

Etonogestrel/ethinyl estradiol vaginal ring (NuvaRing®) is a prescription medication used to prevent pregnancy. It is similar to other oral contraceptives (birth control pills), except it is a flexible ring that is inserted vaginally once a month.
There are many different birth control options available today. Each method has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, and no particular birth control method is right for all women. Some of the most commonly used birth control methods include:
  • Barrier contraceptives -- condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, and various other methods that physically block the sperm from entering the uterus
  • Spermicides -- foams, jellies, gels, suppositories, inserts
  • Combined hormonal contraceptives (which contain a progestin and an estrogen) -- most birth control pills, patches, and rings
  • Progestin-only contraceptives -- some birth control pills ("mini pills"), injections, and implants
  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs) -- implanted devices that are both very effective and reversible
  • Periodic abstinence, sometimes known as natural family planning or the rhythm method -- avoiding intercourse during the fertile phase of your menstrual cycle
  • Withdrawal -- removing the penis from the vagina prior to ejaculation
  • Surgical sterilization -- tubal ligation (getting your "tubes tied") or vasectomy (for men).
Some methods of contraception fall into more than one category. For instance, the Today® sponge works as both a spermicide and a barrier contraceptive. Etonogestrel/ethinyl estradiol vaginal ring falls into the category of combined hormonal contraceptives, as it contains both an estrogen and a progestin. Benefits of combined hormonal contraceptives include:
  • Very effective birth control
  • Regular menstrual cycles
  • Lighter menstrual bleeding
  • Less menstrual pain
  • Decreased risk of ovarian or endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus).
However, combined hormonal contraceptives may increase the risk of blood clots and other problems, and not all women should take combined hormonal contraceptives (see Precautions and Warnings With Etonogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol Vaginal Ring for more information). As with almost all methods of birth control, combined hormonal contraceptives must be used correctly and consistently. This can become a problem for women who have trouble remembering to take a tablet every day. Etonogestrel/ethinyl estradiol vaginal ring may be a good option for such women, as it is inserted and removed just once a month.
Importantly, etonogestrel/ethinyl estradiol vaginal ring does not protect against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In many situations, it is advisable to use condoms in addition to etonogestrel/ethinyl estradiol vaginal ring (to prevent transmission of STDs).
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