Pill, Patch or Ring

What is it and how does it work to prevent pregnancy?

  • Hormones (estrogen and progestin) stop the ovary from releasing an egg, so there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize
  • The hormones also cause thickening of the mucus in the cervix, making it hard for sperm to get through
  • With the PILL, the hormones are swallowed every day
  • With the PATCH, the hormones enter the body through the skin. Each patch is worn for 7 days, and then replaced with a new patch (at a different site)—after 3 patches (3 weeks), there is a week with no patch, when the woman usually has some bleeding, like a “period”
  • With the Vaginal RING, the hormones come in through the vagina—each ring is worn in the vagina for 3 weeks, and then removed. After a week, a new ring is inserted into the vagina—the woman usually has some bleeding, like a “period,” while the ring is out

How effective is it in preventing pregnancy?
These methods are very effective. Only 8 of 100 couples typically become pregnant in the first year.

How effective is it in preventing STDs?
These methods are NOT AT ALL effective in preventing STDs or HIV. If a person has sex, condoms must ALSO be used to reduce the risk of STDs and HIV.

Other Things to Know about the PILL, PATCH, and RING:


  • Using the PILL, PATCH, or RING does not cause cancer or weight gain (in fact, these methods protect from two kinds of cancer: cancer of the ovary, and cancer of the endometrium, or lining of the uterus)


  • A prescription is needed from a doctor or clinic
  • There is a slight risk of rare, but serious, cardiovascular events: blood clots, strokes, or heart attacks
  • Spotting between periods, breast soreness, and nausea may happen. These “minor” side effects generally improve with continuation of these methods The ring requires that the woman is comfortable inserting something in herself vaginally

Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was adapted from, and, websites that provide education about reproductive and sexual health. 

Special Thanks: Melissa A. Habel, MPH, Health Scientist
Division of STD Prevention Centers for Disease Control & Prevention 

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