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How do I start my birth control?

Cristin Hackel

Medically reviewed by Cristin Hackel, BS, RNC, MSN, WHNP on January 13, 2020

Starting birth control — or frankly, any new medication — can be scary. But rest assured, you’ll find a rhythm that works for you.

Most types of birth control take some amount of time to kick in. But different forms of birth control have different efficacy schedules, meaning some become effective sooner than others.

Before you decide which method is right for you, you should know when and how to start your birth control.

Can You Start Birth Control in the Middle of Your Cycle?

Birth control works by regulating the menstrual cycle. For most methods, there’s nothing wrong with starting in the middle of your cycle.

Whenever you begin, it’s important to wait for seven days for hormonal birth control to become effective. That week allows your body’s cycle to adjust to the new levels of hormones.

Get Birth Control At Home

Birth control from Nurx costs as little as $0 with insurance or $15 per month without insurance.

To get the most out of whatever birth control method you end up choosing, keep the following in mind:

Starting the Pill

You can start taking birth control pills as soon as you get them. So why do some women wait for a certain portion of their cycle?

If you use combination pills — pills that deliver both estrogen and progestin to your body — and you begin taking them within the first five days after your period starts, you are protected from pregnancy immediately. If you begin to take the pills at any other time during your cycle, you need to take them for at least seven consecutive days in order to be fully protected and must use backup pregnancy protection (like condoms) during that time. 

For those who take minipills, which only contain progestin, you need to have taken the pill for at least 48 hours before you’ll be fully protected. Keep in mind that the minipill must be taken within the same three-hour window every day in order to be fully effective.

Starting the Shot 

The Depo-subQ Provera 104 shot can be taken at any time. As with the pill, though, when you take it affects how soon you’re protected. 

If you get the shot within the first five days from the start of your period, it will be effective immediately. If you get the shot at any other time, you need to wait at least a week for the effects to fully set in and you should use condoms until then.

Using the shot itself is simple. Once you receive the syringe, shake it thoroughly for one minute. Inject it either in your stomach or the upper part of your thigh. The contents of the syringe need to get fully beneath the skin in order to be effective. To stay protected, you need to repeat this process every 12-13 weeks.

Starting the Patch

The Xulane patch can, like birth control pills, be used immediately. But whether it’s effective immediately depends on where you are in your cycle.

The patch is instantly effective only if you first put it on within the five days following the start of your period. Otherwise, you’ll need to use other methods of contraception for at least seven days while it kicks in. 

Using the Xulane patch is simple: Upon receiving it, apply it to an area of skin that is clean, dry, and relatively free of hair. Using makeup or lotion where the patch is placed can decrease its effectiveness. 

Each patch lasts for one week. Replace yours at the same time every seven days.

Starting the Ring

NuvaRing works like the other birth control options listed here through the release of hormones. Unfortunately, the ring is a bit more restrictive in regards to when you can start using it.

To be fully effective, NuvaRing must be inserted within the first five days from the start of your period. If you insert it on the first day, NuvaRing is immediately effective, but insertion on days two through five requires another seven days of additional contraception before NuvaRing becomes fully functional.  

NuvaRing comes with a set of instructions on how best to insert it, and our patients can request a tampon-like applicator to assist in the process. 

CDC Guidelines

You can also get instructions on starting contraceptives on the website of the Centers for Disease Control.

Are you interested in starting a new birth control method? Let our medical experts walk through the options with you.

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