When To Start Birth Control? And Other Useful Information

when to start birth control

In this article, we’ll discuss what’s the right time to start birth control pills and how to do so appropriately. 


When starting off birth control pills, you must know how and when to take those. Especially, time matters a lot when it comes to oral contraceptives. Time holds importance be it progestin-only pills or combination pills. Usually, you have to start with the tablet at the same time every day. To know how to take the medication, you must know how it works to prevent pregnancy. As understood, birth control medicines contain hormones. The combination pill pack has both progestin and estrogen. The progestin-only medication contains synthetic progesterone.

How Do Birth Control Pills work?

The medication to prevent pregnancy contains synthetic progestin and estrogen. These hormones control your body’s natural monthly cycle and protect against pregnancy. The combination pills stop the body from ovulation i.e. stops the ovary from releasing an egg. The tablet also thickens the cervical mucus, restricting the sperm from entering the uterus. It also thins the uterus lining and makes the egg implantation impossible.

Why Use Birth Control?

You can take the oral contraceptive for birth control if you want to:

  • Get physically intimate yet not get pregnant
  • Treat PCOS or menstrual symptoms
  • Have a control over your reproductive health
  • Do family planning and not have kids for now
  • Improve your quality of life
  • Get periods at regular intervals

Oral contraceptive medicine can also:

  • Help with symptoms of perimenopause
  • Treat endometriosis symptoms
  • Treat menstrual cycle or hormonal imbalance related acne
  • Treat migraines related to menses
  • Control symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome

When To Start Birth Control Pills?

The best time to use birth control pills is as follows:

  • On a Sunday: You can start with the medication pack on the first Sunday following the start of your menstrual cycle. Here, you need to consume one pill at the same time every day, continuously. If you follow this method, then you have to use backup birth control for the first 7 days.
  • The First Day of Periods: It is advisable to start with the medication pack on the first day of your menstrual cycle. As understood, you need to take one pill every day and at the same time. If you follow this method, then there is no need to use backup birth control.
  • The Day Most Suitable for You: Another time to start the medication pack is the day that suits you the most. For instance, if you take the first pill today, then you have to take the next pill the next day, and so on as per the prescription. Remember, it is still important to take the pill at the same time every day. If you follow this method, then the first 7 days, you need to use a backup contraceptive.

NOTE: Though it is okay to take the medicine at any time of the day, it is advisable to take it before bedtime or breakfast. This shall make it easier for you to remember the time of taking the medicine.

Why Timing Matters?

There could be many ways that different oral contraceptives work, but most importantly, they stop your body from ovulating every month. This is at the time of your menstrual cycle. Thus, you cannot get pregnant as in the absence of an egg, the sperm cannot fertilize anything. So, you may ask why timing matters in taking these tablets.

  • This is because your body can quickly break down the pill hormones every day.
  • Due to the fast rate of metabolism, more amount of hormones should be in your body every day.
  • This ensures that sufficient hormone circulates in the body to prevent the ovary from releasing an egg.
  • In case you miss a dose or forget taking the medication, the same becomes less effective. This is because your body will not have a sufficient level of hormones.

What’s An Appropriate Window Period?

Most oral contraceptives have a window period of 1 to 2 hours. Here, the effectiveness of the medicine is not compromised. So, it is relatively safe to delay taking the tablet by the hour. It is also okay if you take the medicine an hour earlier. Doing so will not put you at risk of lowering the level of hormones in the body. Thus, you can stay protected from pregnancy in such a case. However, the best time to use birth control pills is the same time every day. You must try and stick to this schedule.

What About Different Timezones?

If you are traveling to somewhere that has a different time zone, then here is how you must manage the timing for your birth control medication:

  • If the time difference is of an hour or two, then there should not be a problem on sticking to the regular schedule of taking the medication.
  • However, if there is a greater difference in the time zone, then you should add or minus the number of hours as per the new timing, and take the pill.
  • For instance, you take the tablet every morning at 10 AM, and there is 3 hours difference at the new place.
  • If the new place is ahead by 3 hours, then you need to take the pill at 1 PM. If the new place is behind by 3 hours, then you need to take the pill at 7 AM.

When To Stop Using Birth Control Pills?

You may be advised against birth control pills if you suffer from certain health conditions such as hypertension, blood clots, heart attack, smoker, and over 35 years of age, liver/heart/gallbladder disease, allergic to pill, etc. If a certain medication has serious side effects for you, then your doctor can switch you over to another medicine. Or, if you want to get pregnant, then your doctor will let you know when to stop using the tablet and the time your ovulation cycle may return to its normal schedule.

  • When you decide to stop using oral contraceptives, your body may take some time to return to normalcy.
  • You may start ovulating once again in just a few weeks after halting the medication. At other times, it can take up to a few months for your body to resume to regular ovulation cycle.
  • And if you do not want to get pregnant, but stop taking the pill, then consider other contraceptive methods.

There are several birth control options to choose from besides the pill. You may want to know more about hormonal as well as non-hormonal birth control methods. Discuss with your doctor for the best possible option. Your doctor will analyze your preference and health to suggest a suitable contraceptive option.

Also Read: Benefits Of Hormonal Birth Control

What Is Placebo Period?

You need to stop using the pill for a time period. This is usually in the 4th week, which is also known as the ‘placebo week’. For the 4th week, your pill pack may contain tablets with no hormones at all or a small number of hormones compared to active pills. Some pill packs are for 3 weeks only and you need not take any pill in the 4th week. This is also the week when you will menstruate or get withdrawal bleeding. It is important to know that the medication still works in week 4 even if you are not on active hormones.

  • This means that even if you have intercourse in week 4, you will not get pregnant. This week, it does not matter if you take the placebo tablets or not.
  • Also, the timing of taking the medication does not matter. Even then, you must not avoid placebo pills.
  • This is because you stay in touch with your daily routine of taking the tablets. Thus, you are more likely to remember taking the medicine at the same time each day.

To Conclude

Birth control pills are effective to prevent pregnancy when used correctly and at the right time. The above-given pointers will help you know the best time to use them.