You can start new birth control at any time, including the middle of your menstrual cycle, but you may not be protected against pregnancy right away. This applies whether you are starting a birth control method for the first time or switching to a new birth control.
The Best Start Time Depends on the Birth Control
Different types of birth control have different recommended start dates. When you start your birth control will determine whether you’re immediately protected against pregnancy or not.
- Combination birth control pills: Start within the first five days of period for immediate protection. If you start a combination pill mid-cycle you’ll receive pregnancy protection after seven days.
- Progestin-only birth control pills (mini pill): Start at any time. It provides protection after two days.
- The patch: Start within the first five days of period for immediate protection. It provides protection after seven days if started mid-cycle.
- The NuvaRing: Start within the first five days of period for immediate protection. It provides protection after seven days if started mid-cycle.
- The depo shot (Depo-subQ Provera 104): Start within the first seven days of your period for immediate protection. It provides protection after seven days if started mid-cycle.
Benefits of Starting Birth Control When Cycle Begins
Traditionally, medical experts recommended starting your birth control at the start of your menstrual cycle. That’s because starting birth control when your period begins, or close to it, has the following benefits:
- Immediate pregnancy protection in most cases.
- Reduced risk of irregular bleeding and breast tenderness, since you are keeping your cycle regular and consistent.
- Confidence you are not already pregnant.
Benefits of Starting Birth Control Mid-Cycle
While starting your birth control at the start of your cycle makes sense, it’s not always the best option. In fact, new advice from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there’s no medical reason to delay taking birth control once you receive it. If you’re ready to start a new birth control but your period has just ended, there are several advantages to starting your birth control mid-cycle, instead of waiting until your next period.
- You’ll get protected against pregnancy sooner, in most cases.
- The advice from your Nurx ™ medical provider will be fresh in your mind.
- You have the freedom to delay or skip your next period if it’s more convenient for you.
- Your periods will become more regular, if they were irregular, sooner.
What to Do When Starting Birth Control Mid-Cycle
Birth control doesn’t offer immediate protection against pregnancy when it’s started mid-cycle. Take note of how long your new birth control will take to protect you. Use a back-up contraceptive, such as condoms, during sex while you’re waiting for your birth control to take effect. Once you’ve been taking your birth control for two to seven days, depending on the type, you can stop using your back-up contraception.
It takes longer for some women who start birth control mid-cycle to adjust to the hormones. This can cause irregular bleeding or spotting. If you notice spotting, which can occur for several months after starting birth control mid-cycle, you may want to use panty liners or wear period underwear. It can also cause breast tenderness.
Some women like to start birth control on the first Sunday after the last day of their menstrual cycles. The “Sunday Start” method should make sure you don’t get your period on a weekend, so it’s a great option if you suffer from cramps or are active on the weekends.
It’s also easy for women who started taking the pill with the Sunday Start method to remember they’ll need a new pack on the Sunday after their period. Of course, women who take continuous oral contraceptives won’t have this frame of reference, as their packs have just 21 pills, not 28.
It can take time to adjust to the routine of taking the pill, whether you start at the beginning of your cycle or mid-way through. Taking the pill at the same time each day may make it easier to remember. It’s also essential for progestin-only pills. Setting an alarm, especially in those early days, can help you form the habit.
If you do happen to forget your pill one day, take two pills the next day. If you forget to take your pills on two consecutive days, take two pills for two days. If you miss more than two days, you’ll need a back-up birth control method such as condoms to make sure you don’t become pregnant, even if you have passed the initial period of non-protection. If you’re on a progestin-only pill and miss it by more than two hours, use back-up for two days.
Talk to a Medical Expert
If you’ve got any lingering questions or concerns about switching birth control, speaking to a member of the Nurx medical team is always a smart choice. We have a team of medical experts happy to chat to you about your reasons for switching birth control and what type of birth control might suit you best.
Our medical team can help you weigh up the best options, considering whether you’re in a monogamous relationship or not, your plans for having children, if any, and whether you have any health conditions that could impact your choice. They will also outline any potential side effects and risks of the birth control methods you’re interested in so you can make the most informed choice. They can also suggest when you should start your new birth control and other precautions you might take to protect yourself until it takes effect.
When you have settled on the birth control method you want to use, they can write a prescription for you and fill it, saving you a visit to your local pharmacy. We’ll then send it to you in discreet packaging, so you can start using it at the time you think is best.