When to Take Birth Control Pills and How

Birth control pills, or "the pill," can be taken to help prevent pregnancy; they can also make periods more regular, reduce cramps or help lighten periods. If taken every day, these pills prevent eggs from being released by the ovaries. There are two types of birth control pills, a combination made up of estrogen and progestin and progestin-only pills.

When to Start Birth Control

If you are sexually active and wish to start taking birth control pills to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, you can start taking them at any time. But the exact way of how to start the pills depends on the pills as well as your health condition. Your healthcare provider can discuss birth control pill options with you and help you determine which day is best for you to start taking the pill.

1. Combination Pills

The combination pill can be started on any day of the month, but if you take it within five days of starting your period, you are protected against pregnancy right away. In addition, you will not need to use another backup form of birth control. However, if you start taking it at any other time during your menstrual cycle, then you won't be protected for seven days. In this case, you should use another method of birth control like a condom, a sponge, diaphragm or a female condom while having sexual intercourse.

2. Progestin-Only Pills

A progestin-only pill can be started on any day of the month and protection from pregnancy will begin two days after taking it. During this time, you should use another method of birth control when engaging in vaginal intercourse. It is important to take this type of pill at the same time every day. If it is taken three hours past your usual time, then you will not be protected for the next 48 hours and you will need to use another form of birth control during intercourse.

3. Starting the Pill After Pregnancy

Since it is possible to get pregnant again soon after being pregnant, many women are concerned about when to start birth control pill after their pregnancy. The combination pill can be started three weeks after giving birth vaginally. Women who have an increased risk of blood clots should wait for at least six weeks to take this pill.

Women have an increased risk of blood clots if they:

  • are obese
  • had pre-eclampsia
  • are 35 or older
  • had a Caesarian section
  • had heavy bleeding after giving birth
  • had blood clots in the past
  • have a blood clotting disorder
  • need prolonged bed rest
  • had close relatives with blood clots
  • received a blood transfusion during delivery
  • are smokers

The combination pill can be taken right after a miscarriage or an abortion. The progestin-only pill can be taken right after childbirth, an abortion or a miscarriage.

4. Breastfeeding and Birth Control Pills

For combination pills, it is necessary to wait if you are breastfeeding because they can reduce the amount and quality of the milk during the first six weeks of nursing. The progestin-only pill does not have any effect on breast milk.

Although breast milk will have trace amounts of the pill's hormones in it, it is unlikely to have any effect on your baby. However, if you have questions or concerns, you should discuss taking the pill during breastfeeding with your healthcare provider.

5. Other Options

  • Start the pills from the day when your period begins. Then take the pill at the same time everyday after that. Taking this way can be effective in preventing pregnancy immediately, thus saving the trouble of using other backup methods.
  • Start the pills on the first Sunday following the beginning of your period. If your period starts on Sunday, take the pills that day. Then take one pill a day at the same time after that. When taking this way, you may have to use other protections such as condoms for at least a week.
  • Start the pills today, if you like, then take one pill every day at the dame time to prevent pregnancy. However, you may have to use other protections such as condoms for at least one week.

If you're still concerned about when to start birth control, watch a video about a doctor telling how to start your pills for clearer instruction: 

Effectiveness and Safe Intake of Birth Control

With the problem of when to start birth control solved, you should also know how to take the pills to get expected results. With typical use, birth control pills are about 92% effective in helping to prevent pregnancy. This means, eight out of 100 women who take it could become pregnant in one year. However, with correct and consistent use, less than 1 out of every 100 women will become pregnant in one year.

Correct Way of Taking the Pills

The correct way to take a birth control pill is to make sure and take it at the same time every day until you finish all the pills in the pack. When you finish a pack, start on another one the next day. In addition, you should always take the pills in the correct order and do not miss a day.

If you feel nauseous with the pill, try taking them with food, after you've eaten or at bedtime. Once your body has adjusted to the pills, your period should come during the last seven days of a pill pack.

When You Forget to Take the Pills

  • If you forget your pill, take it as soon as you remember it and then take your next pill at the correct time.
  • If you realize you have skipped a pill when taking one, you should take the pill you skipped along with your regular pill.
  • If you skip two days in a row, then take two pills for the next two days and use backup contraception for a week. Resume taking them as usual on the third day.
  • If you forget to take your pill for three or more days, start a new pill pack and use back up contraception.
  • If you have severe nausea, vomiting or cannot keep the pills in your stomach, you can insert them in your vagina. You will get the same effect from the hormones in the pills in your vagina as you would swallow them.

Possible Side Effects of Birth Control

Besides when to start birth control, it is also important to know the possible side effects that may happen. Although, most women do not experience side effects when taking birth control pills, each type can affect women differently. Here are some of the side effects that some women may experience during the first few months of taking birth control pills.

  • Irregular periods
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Mood changes
  • Sore or enlarged breasts
  • Weight changes

These side effects are usually mild, but if they don't go away, then speak to your healthcare provider about switching to a different type of birth control pill. Some women experience more serious side effects, including:

  • Abdominal or stomach pain
  • Chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath
  • Headaches, dizziness, weakness or numbness
  • Vision loss or blurring, speech problems
  • Leg pain in the calf or thigh
  • Blood clots

Contact your healthcare provide immediately if you experience these side effects.