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How To Use Combination Birth Control Pills

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Updated June 02, 2014

How To Use Combination Birth Control Pills

How to Use Combination Birth Control Pills

Photo Courtesy of P. Eaton
A woman should make sure that her healthcare provider fully explains how to use combination birth control pills. This should include information about when and how to start taking the pill as well as what to do if one accidentally forgets to take a pill.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: N/A

Here's How:

  1. A woman should pick a time of day to take the pill that is easy to remember. Taking the pill at the same time each day makes it more effective.

  2. Take the first active pill in the pack within five days after the start of one's period. If a woman starts her pack on the first Sunday after her period begins, it will result in her perod almost always beginning on a Tuesday or Wednesday every 4 weeks. If the pill pack is started during the woman’s period, she will be protected against pregnancy immediately and will not need to use a back up method of birth control.

  3. A female can decide to take the first active pill in the pack at anytime during her cycle. However, if the pill pack is started during any other time during the menstrual cycle (and not during one’s period), protection will begin after seven days. A woman should use an additional method of birth control if having sexual intercourse during the first week of combination pill use.

  4. Take the Pill at the same time, everyday, for the first 3 weeks of each pill pack. It may be helpful to check the pack of pills each morning to make sure that yesterday's pill was taken.

  5. A woman can choose whether or not to take the "reminder" pills during week. The hormones contained in the active pills (during weeks 1-3) prevent pregnancy throughout the month, so even during the fourth week (regardless to whether she is taking reminder pills or no pills at all), a woman is protected against becoming pregnant.

  6. Continue to take one pill a day until the pack is finished.
    • If a female is using a 28-day pack, she should begin a new pack immediately and not skip any days between packages.

    • If she is using a 21-day pack, she should stop taking pills for 1 week and then start her next pack.

  7. Be sure to read and follow the instructions inside the pill package.

  8. If a woman wants to become pregnant (or does not want to use the Pill anymore), she can just stop taking it. It typically can take anywhere from one to three months for a woman's period to return to the cycle she had before taking the pill. However, she can still become pregnant during this time.
  9. A woman can also choose to skip her withdrawal bleed (period) by using the pill. This is extremely easy and safe to do.

Tips:

  1. These tips are meant to be general guidelines

    • If pills are missed, the best thing to do is to refer to the particular pill’s package insert because the instructions can be more complicated with the newer, lower dose and extended regimen pills

    • The woman should always keep one copy of her package insert in a place where she can easily find it

  2. If a woman misses one pill, she should take the forgotten one (yesterday's) as soon as she remembers it. She should then take today's pill at her regular time. If she soes not realize that a pill was missed until her regular time, she can take both pills at that time.

    Although one will probably not become pregnant, use a backup method (like an over the counter option) for the next 7 days, just to be cautious.

  3. If a female misses two pills in a row, she should take two pills as soon as she remembers and two pills the following day. Some spotting may occur. She should also use a backup method of contraception until her next period and pill cycle.

  4. If a person misses three or more pills in a row, she should use a backup method of birth control immediately.

    Some research has indicated that that women who miss three pills will most likely not ovulate, but one should still be cautious and take the necessary precautions to prevent pregnancy.

  5. Once a woman has missed three or more pills, she can:

    • Take two pills for 3 days to get back on track (while using a back-up birth control method)
    • Choose to stop taking the remainder of the pills and discard the pack.
    She can then begin a new pack of pills the following Sunday (after missing the pills), even if she has started bleeding. She should continue to use an additional contraceptive method for the first 14 days of the new back of pills.

What You Need

  • A prescription to obtain birth control pills
  • A pack of combination birtth control pills
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