To use combination birth control pills:
Consult your health care provider about a starting date. If you use the quick-start method, you can take the first pill in the pack immediately. If you use the Sunday start, you'll take your first pill on the first Sunday following the start of your period.
When using the quick start or Sunday start, use a backup method of contraception for the first seven days you take combination birth control pills. If you use the first-day start, you'll take your first pill on the first day of your next period. No backup method of contraception is needed.
- Pick a time to regularly take the pill. Following a routine may keep you from missing a pill. For example, consider taking your pill when you brush your teeth in the morning. For maximum effectiveness, you must take combination birth control pills at the same time every day.
- Follow your health care provider's instructions carefully. Birth control pills only work if you use them correctly, so make sure you understand how you're supposed to use them. If you're using conventional combination birth control pills and want to have regular periods, you will take all of the pills in your pack — the active and the inactive ones — and start a new pack the day after you finish your current one. If you want to avoid monthly periods, ask your health care provider about how to take the pills and how many active pill packs you can take in a row.
Be cautious with missed pills. If you miss an active pill, take it as soon as you remember — even if it means taking two active pills in the same day. Take the rest of the pack as usual and use a backup method of contraception for seven days if you missed your pill by more than 12 hours.
If you miss more than one active pill, take the last pill you missed right away. Take the rest of the pack as usual and use a backup method of contraception for seven days. If you've had unprotected sex, consult your health care provider about emergency contraception.
- Don't take breaks between packs. Always have your next pack ready before you finish your current pack.
If you vomit within two hours after taking a combination birth control pill or have severe vomiting and diarrhea for two or more days, proceed as if you've missed a pill.
Aug. 13, 2015
- Hatcher RA, et al. Contraceptive Technology. 20th ed. New York, N.Y.: Ardent Media; 2011:249.
- Martin KA, et al. Overview of the use of estrogen-progestin contraceptives. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 19, 2014.
- Frequently asked questions. Contraception FAQ185. Combined hormonal birth control: Pill, patch and ring. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Combined-Hormonal-Birth-Control-Pill-Patch-and-Ring. Accessed Sept. 4. 2014.
- Martin KA. Risks and side effects associated with estrogen-progestin contraceptives. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 19, 2014.
- Laughlin-Tommaso SK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 22, 2014.