A guide to female contraception for men

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Your question
‘My girlfriend is switching to a form of contraception that involves putting a plastic ring in her vagina. It’s suddenly hit me that my partner has sole responsibility for ensuring we don’t become parents before we’re ready. How do I know this ring thing will work, and that she’ll use it properly so I don’t end up being an accidental daddy?’
Eddie, via email
Alix’s answer
Whoa, steady Eddie! Let’s arm you with some info about the various sorts of contraception available for women, so you can feel chilled about the Pill, take your nerves off the boil about the coil, and be confident you know every little thing about that mysterious ring. You’re right that the family planning methods your partner uses have big implications for you both, so it’s as important for fellas as it is for females to educate themselves on what’s helping to prevent a bang from resulting in a baba.
But first, let’s discover more about the ‘plastic ring’ that’s driving you loopy.
What is a contraceptive ring?
This device has been used in various countries since 2001, but didn’t start to become generally available in the UK until 2009. Despite the ring’s newness, it’s been thoroughly tested and proven to be over 99% effective if used correctly. Those are some very efficient anti-sprog stats, so this little loop should make you whoop if you’re not up for being a daddy just yet.
How does the ring work?
The ring is made of a flexible, transparent polymer that’s designed to be worn inside the vagina, where it’s naturally held in place. Here, it releases two types of hormone: oestrogen and progestogen. The hormones prevent pregnancy by stopping the ovaries from releasing eggs, thickening cervical mucus (making it harder for sperm to swim), and making the lining of the womb thinner, so if an egg was somehow released and fertilised it wouldn’t be able to attach to the lining.

Your girlfriend will need to wear the ring for three weeks. She can insert it on her own, squeezing it between her thumb and finger and sliding it in like a tampon. It doesn’t need to sit in a very specific place to work, so it’s almost impossible for her to put it in wrongly. And don’t worry – it can’t get lost up there, either!
After the three weeks are up, she should take it out, and go ring-less for seven days. During this time she’ll have a ‘withdrawal bleed’ – very similar to a natural period. When seven days have passed, the cycle starts again by inserting a new ring. You and your girlfriend are protected against pregnancy during this entire cycle, including when she’s bleeding.
Why might my girlfriend want to try the ring?
Once the ring is in place, your lady can forget about it for 21 days, and because the ring releases hormones directly into the womb, they don’t need to be absorbed by the stomach, meaning that – unlike the Pill – the ring won’t stop working if your girlfriend vomits or has diarrhea.
However, you should be aware that while contraceptive rings are fantastic at preventing pregnancy, they don’t protect against STDs.

Will it affect me?
You might be able to feel it inside your partner’s vagina when you’re having sex or during foreplay. It shouldn’t be uncomfortable for either of you though, and the hormones it contains won’t affect you. So there’s no need to worry about absorbing them and spontaneously growing boobies.
Anything else I should know?
I recommend you swot up more thoroughly on contraceptive rings. I also suggest you educate yourself on all the other forms of contraception available so you can better understand the decisions facing your girlfriend and how they might affect you both.

Alix Fox

Chirpier than a gargantuan aviary and saucier than an HP factory, Alix Fox was the resident expert on sex and relationships for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. She has also been seen on the BBCChannel 4E4ITV and The Discovery Channel. Alix has also written for Bizarre magazine, Time Out and The Telegraph.