How to Take Birth Control Pills

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How to Take Birth Control Pills

Topic Overview

Birth control pills come in packs. The most common type has 3 weeks of hormone pills. Some packs have sugar pills for the fourth week. During that fourth no-hormone week, you have your menstrual period. After the fourth week (28 days), you start a new pack.

Some birth control pills are packaged so that you take hormone pills continuously for a period of time. With pills packaged in this way, you may not have a monthly period or you may only have a period every couple of months.

How to start your first pack of pills

There are several ways you can start taking your first pack of pills. Talk with your doctor about when to start taking your pills:

  • Quick start. During your medical appointment, take your first pill as soon as you get the pack from your doctor. Take the second pill the next day. During the first 7 days of pills, use a backup method of birth control, like a condom or diaphragm. Diaphragms are no longer widely available in Canada. The spermicidal jelly required to ensure a seal at the cervix is no longer available.
  • Sunday start. Pick a Sunday to take your first pill, so that you do not have periods on the weekends. During the first 7 days of pills, use a backup method of birth control, like a condom or diaphragm. Diaphragms are no longer widely available in Canada. The spermicidal jelly required to ensure a seal at the cervix is no longer available.
  • Fifth-day start. On the fifth day of your menstrual period, take your first pill.

Your daily pill routine

Take your hormone pills every day, at about the same time of day. To stay on track and prevent pregnancy, try these easy tricks:1

  • Pick a time. Link up your "pill time" with something you do every day, like brushing your teeth, eating a meal, or going to bed.
  • Use your calendar. Mark the days you will start new packs. You might even want to cross off each day you take your pill.
  • Check again. Each morning, check your pack to be sure you took yesterday's pill. If you find you've missed one, take it right away.

References

Citations

  1. Nelson A (2007). Combined oral contraceptives. In RA Hatcher et al., eds., Contraceptive Technology, 19th ed., pp. 193–270. New York: Ardent Media.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised August 12, 2011

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