Switching from the depo-shot to birth control pills is a simple process that ideally involves taking your first birth control pill within 15 weeks of your last shot. Known as the “no gap” method, this technique ensures you stay protected from pregnancy while you’re making the transition.
How to Switch to the Pill
Chat to a medical expert when you consider switching to the pill. The Nurx™ medical team are always available to discuss why you want to switch birth control methods and which pill might work best for you. They can talk you through different varieties of birth control pills and other birth control options you may not have considered. They can also suggest when you should start taking the pill.
The depo-shot stays in your system for 15 weeks, so taking a new birth control method within 15 weeks of your last shot is ideal. While the pill will be effective if you take it any time within 15 weeks of your last depo-shot, most medical experts suggest taking your first pill when your next depo-shot is due to best regulate your hormones.
If you have taken the depo-shot for two or more years, speak to the Nurx medical team about whether you should have a bone scan. A scan can detect bone mineral density loss, which can be a concern with long-term use of the depo-shot.
The Nurx medical team can also help you order your birth control pills. Once you receive them, you should think about the best time of day to take them. Some women like taking their pill when they wake up in the morning or just before they go to bed at night. The pill is most effective when it’s taken at the same time each day. The mini-pill must be taken at the same time to protect you against pregnancy. You might want to set up an alarm on your phone to help you remember to take the pill and order a new dose.
Once the day comes to start taking your pill, simply take it like any other tablet at the time you’ve decided. Read the instructions that come with your pills to determine which pill to take first. Take the next pill in the pack on the following day, and so on. Some brands have inactive pills, when you get a period, and others ask you to stop the pill for a period of seven days. Some pills are meant to be taken continuously, without giving you a period. You can ask the Nurx care provider about all these options when you’re chatting with them.
Will There Be Side Effects?
Minor side effects when you’re transitioning to the pill are normal as your body adjusts to the new hormones. However, if you experience more troubling side effects, such as the following, or your side effects persist beyond a few months, contact your local provider as soon as possible:
- Pain in your chest, leg, or abdomen.
- Swollen legs.
- Severe headaches.
- Feeling dizzy or weak.
- Coughing up blood.
- Changes in vision.
- Shortness of breath.
- Slurred speech.
- Numbness in your arms or legs.
What If I Haven’t Had a Depo-Shot for More Than 15 Weeks?
If you have not had a depo-shot for more than 15 weeks, you are not currently protected against pregnancy. You can still transition to birth control pills, but you should use another birth control method while you’re waiting for the pills to arrive. Birth control pills can also take up to a week to provide effective protection, depending on which part of your menstrual cycle you start them. Condoms are a good back-up method of birth control while you’re waiting to be protected by birth control pills as they take effect.
Why Switch to the Pill?
There are many reasons you might want to take the pill instead of the depo-shot. These include:
- Concerns about the risk of bone mineral density loss with prolonged use (two years or more).
- Feeling squeamish about needles.
- Difficulty affording the depo-shot.
- Intense side effects, including weight gain, moodiness, and changes in libido.
- Thinking about starting a family.
- A desire for regular periods, which can be irregular on the depo-shot, especially in the first year. Switching to the pill can make it easier to predict when your period will occur and reduce the chance of spotting between cycles.
The pill makes a good alternative to the depo-shot as both methods are 99% effective when used as directed. The pill is more affordable and can be used safely for however long you need it. Women become fertile as soon as they stop taking the pill, but it can take women 10 months or more to become pregnant after stopping the depo-shot.
While the depo-shot and birth control pills can cause similar side effects, women on the pill typically report less severe symptoms which fade over time. Women on the shot have more intense side effects because they receive the hormone dose all at once, rather than having it spread out in daily pills.
Who Shouldn’t Switch to the Pill?
Most women take the pill without any problems. However, in some rare cases, the pill can cause heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots. Certain risk factors can make these complications more likely, so it’s important to tell your Nurx care provider if you:
- Are aged 35 or older.
- Have a blood-clotting disorder.
- Have ever had a heart attack, stroke, or blood clots.
- Have a serious heart condition.
- Have lupus.
- Have uncontrolled diabetes or have had the condition for more than 20 years.
- Have high blood pressure.
- Have high cholesterol.
- Experience migraines with auras.
- Have an above-average BMI.
- Have breast cancer or are a breast cancer survivor.
- Are on long-term bed rest.
- Have fragile or thin bones.
- Take aminoglutethimide, a prescription medication for Cushing’s syndrome
If you fit into one or more of these categories, your Nurx medical team may suggest other birth control options that are more suitable for you.