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How to Switch to a New Pill

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Updated March 26, 2014

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How to Switch to a New Pill

Switching to a New Pill

Photo © 2011 Dawn Stacey

If you want to switch to a new pill, there are a few steps that you should follow. The following information is for women who are currently using the pill. If possible, complete steps 1 and 2 sometime early in the cycle of your current pill pack (like during weeks 1 or 2). Also, these are general guidelines, you should ALWAYS read the entire information packet that comes with your new pill pack and follow the start instructions provided there.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: N/A

Here's How:

  1. Talk to your doctor about your options. Explain why you want a new pill brand. Are you looking for a pill with certain non-contraceptive benefits? Do you want an extended cycle pill? Are there side effects that you may want to minimize? You may want to switch from a combination pill to a progestin-only one? Or, perhaps you may want to switch to a different hormonal birth control option altogether.

  2. Take your new pill prescription to the pharmacy to have it filled.

  3. Finish your entire existing pill pack (including the inactive placebo pills). Do not stop your current pill and switch to your new pill during the middle of your cycle. Doing this may cause spotting or breakthrough bleeding, headaches, nausea or other symptoms. This may also compromise the effectiveness of the pill.

  4. Start your new pill pack on the day that you would have started the first day of your next old pill pack. If you do this, you should have automatic pregnancy protection and will not need to use a back-up birth control method. However, check the package insert (that comes with the new pill prescription) to double-check if a back-up method should be used for the first 7 days.

  5. Because your body may be adjusting to a new type, level, and or dose of hormones, you may experience some side effects. Give the new pill brand three months for these side effects to go away before deciding whether or not you wish to stop using this brand.

Tips:

  1. Changing from Combination Pills to the Mini-Pill (progestin-only pill): to have immediate pregnancy protection and no need to use back-up contraception, take the first pill in the mini-pill pack the day after you take your last active combination pill (end of week 3). Do not take the inactive, placebo pills (week 4) of your old pill brand – just start your new pill that week instead.

  2. Switching from the Mini-Pill to the Combo Pill: take the first active (hormone) pill of your new pack on the day you get your withdrawal bleed (period). Disregard any remaining pills in your old pack and continue with your new pill pack. This should provide you with immediate protection. Some women prefer to wait and start their new pill pack on Sunday (as most pill packs are labeled with Sunday as the start day). You can wait until Sunday; but if more than 7 days have passed since you took your last active mini-pill, then you should use a back-up, over-the counter, method for the first 7 days of your new pill back to avoid getting pregnant.

  3. NuvaRing and the Pill: Remove the NuvaRing after 3 weeks of use. In week 4, take your fist pill using either a Sunday Start or a Day 1 Start, whichever comes first (see instructions that come with your pill pack). If you choose a Sunday Start, use a backup method of contraception for 7 days. You may not have a period this month, but this is normal. If switching to NuvaRing, insert the NuvaRing at anytime during your combination pill pack but the latest day you can insert the ring is the day after taking your last inactive/placebo pill. Disregard any remaining pills. No back-up method would be needed. When switching from the mini-pill, you can start NuvaRing on any day, but you will need to use a back-up method for the first 7 days of using NuvaRing.

  4. Ortho Evra Patch and the Pill: Wait until you finish using the third patch of your cycle. In the fourth week, begin your first pill using either a Sunday Start or a Day 1 Start (see instruction pamphlet for this). If you choose a Sunday Start, use a backup method of contraception for 7 days. If switching to the patch, wait until you get your period, and then choose either the Day 1 Start (starting on the first day of your period) or Sunday Start (use patch on the first Sunday after your period starts) to apply your first patch (see the instructions for these in the information leaflet that comes with the patch). You will need to use backup birth control for the first 7 days after switching to the patch.

  5. Depo Provera and the Pill: To have continuous pregnancy protection, begin your new pill on the day your next Depo Provera shot is scheduled or anytime before. If switching to Depo Provera, you may have your first Depo injection at any time during your current pill pack. After receiving the Depo injection, continue taking your pills until you are done with the whole pack.

What You Need

  • A prescription for a new pill brand
  • A pack of birth control pills

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