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When Should I Take the Pill?


Updated May 20, 2014

When Should I Take the Pill?

Travel and the Pill

Photo © 2008 Dawn Stacey
Question: When Should I Take the Pill?
Do you know when to take the Pill? When using combination birth control pills, it is important to take the Pill at the same time each day. Keep in mind, though, this means that you must take travel plans (especially if traveling to a different time zone) and Daylight Saving Time changes into account.
Answer: Typically, most birth control pills have about a 1- to 2-hour window period where effectiveness is not compromised. So, most healthcare professions will advise that being off an hour, in either direction, does not generally make a difference -- especially if taking your pill earlier as opposed to later.

Likewise, if you are traveling to a place where the time zone difference is only an hour different, you could probably take your pill at the same time that you normally would (according to the clock).

But let's consider this example:

"I take my birth control pill at 8:30 a.m. each day. I live in the Eastern time zone, but will soon be vacationing in Pacific time zone. Given that the time difference is 3 hours, should I take my pill at 5:30 a.m. PST once I get there?"

In this case, since the time difference is more than 1 hour, it is probably best to continue taking the Pill at what would have been your usual time -- in actuality, not according to the clock. So, that would mean that you should take the Pill at the adjusted time of 5:30 a.m. PST while you are away, which is the same as the normal pill-taking time of 8:30 a.m. EST.

Daylight Saving Time

Going to a different time zone may trigger you to think about your pill-taking time, but it's important to consider changes in time at home, too. Consider this example: “I take my birth control pill at 6:00 a.m. every day. When we have to set the clock ahead an hour for Daylight Saving Time, what do I do? Do I take it at 7:00 a.m., or can I continue to take it at my normal time?

When it's time to set the clock ahead an hour for Daylight Saving Time, if you take your Pill at your regular time, your body will only feel as though you're one hour early with the dose. Given that most healthcare professionals agree that taking the Pill one hour earlier than usual is fine, it is OK to continue taking your pill at your normal time (and not adjust for Daylight Saving Time).

What about when Daylight Saving Time is over?

“I take my birth control pill at 9:00 p.m. each day. Since Daylight Saving Time is going to be over, and we need to set the clock back an hour, should I start to take my pill at 8:00 p.m.?

Technically, the Pill only protects against pregnancy for a 24-hour period. So, when Daylight Saving Time is over (and the clock is moved back one hour), it may be wise to adjust your pill use and take your pill one hour earlier than you normally would. You can always go back to taking the Pill at your “normal” time when you begin your next pack of pills (after the placebo week is over).

The Bottom Line

Whether planning for travel between different time zones or Daylight Saving time, the most important point to remember is that you will have maximum protection as long as you take the Pill at about the same time every day.

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