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Home / Contraception / How to start a new contraceptive

How to start a new contraceptive

Learn more about how to start, stop or change your contraception

If you're sexually active, you need to be in control of your fertility. Contraception is a generally safe and effective way to achieve that.

You may also want to change or start contraception for reasons other than preventing pregnancy. Hormonal contraception can regulate your cycle, reduce cramping and heavy bleeding, improve acne and give you shorter, lighter and less painful periods — among many other benefits.

Two pink contraception pill packs

As such, it’s important that you find the contraceptive method that's right for you, as well as knowing how to start, stop and get back on the contraceptives.

How do I get started with contraception for the first time?

If you’re currently not on any contraceptives, you will need to have a consultation with your healthcare provider before you start, as choosing the right contraception will depend on a number of factors including your health, lifestyle, and whether you want to have children in the future. They will advise you on the different methods that are available.

Your doctor may suggest that you have a pelvic exam and a pap smear in addition to seeing your full medical history. This is to ensure that you’re given the most suitable contraceptive, with minimal side effects and with maximum effect.

You will usually be advised to take your first pill, patch or ring on the first day of your period, but you can start at any time during your menstrual cycle. If you start your combined pill during your menstrual cycle, you will be protected right away. If you’ve just finished your period and want to start without waiting, you can do so, but you will need to use barrier protection for the first seven days until the pill becomes effective.

Most contraceptives can be started on immediately, however they may not be immediately effective, and you might need to take additional precautions in the meantime.

How do I change to a different type of contraception?

Initially, you will need to speak to your doctor before you switch your contraceptive - be it brand to brand or combined to mini pills or even from one method to another.

Generally, it is advised that you switch from one contraceptive type to another without an interlude or a placebo. This ensures that your hormone levels don't drop and that ovulation doesn't occur.

If you go straight from one pill to another without a gap, you may not need to use a backup plan or other form of protection. However, to be safe, your doctor may recommend you use a barrier method or other form of protection for up to seven days.

Some health providers recommend that you wait an entire month before having unprotected sex, but this may not be the case for everyone.

Changing from a combined pill to a mini pill

Changing from a combined pill to a mini pill is pretty straightforward. You do not need to finish your current pack to start another, and as long as you don’t leave any gaps between the pills, you should continue to be protected from pregnancy.

Do note that any missed pill in your schedule will interrupt the birth control, so be mindful of your existing pill schedule when switching.

Changing from a mini pill to a combined pill

The combined pill is not suitable for everyone, so if you’ve made the decision to switch, make sure that the switch is right for you. Let your healthcare provider know if you’re breastfeeding, before you switch, if you smoke, are prone to migraines, are going through menopause or have blood clot issues.

In case you’re experiencing side effects, you should tell your doctor immediately, as they’ll be able to advise you on which alternatives might be better suited.

Do note that if you’re switching from mini pill to combined pill, there will be additional hormones, such as oestrogen, added to your contraceptive, and you may need to use additional protection such as a condom until your body adjusts to the change.

You will be immediately protected from pregnancy if you start the combined pill within the first five days of your period. If you start your pill at any other time, you will need to wait up to seven days to be fully protected from pregnancy.

Changing from IUD to combined pill or mini pill

A medical professional will need to remove your intrauterine device (IUD) before you switch to the pill, so you will need to visit your sexual health clinic or GP before you make the switch.

You should start the pill seven days before you get your IUD removed, so there are no breaks in the protection. Speak to your doctor for more information on the type of pill you want to switch to in order to find out if it’s safe and suitable for you.

Copper IUD with three contraceptive pills on a yellow background

Do be aware that a missed pill during this time could mean you’re not protected from pregnancy, even if IUD has been fitted, so make sure you read the patient information leaflet and follow your pharmacist’s advice.

Changing from combined pill or mini pill to IUD

To switch from the combined pill to the IUD you will need to visit your GP or a sexual health clinic, as the doctor will need to insert the IUD. For the hormone based IUDs, you will need to have it fitted seven days before your last pill, however for non-hormone based IUDs, such as the copper IUD, they can be inserted up to five days after your last pill, without the break in protection from pregnancy.

How do I restart contraception after a break?

If you’ve taken a break between contraceptives, or if you were using them sporadically, you should treat it as if you're starting the contraception for the first time when you decide to start again.

The effectiveness of most contraceptive methods depends on the consistency of you taking the contraceptive, so your body will again need time to adjust to the hormone changes as the effects of contraceptives are not permanent.

How do I come off the contraception?

You can simply stop taking the contraceptive pill whenever you wish, even if you’re halfway through the pack. As hormonal contraception may affect your period, you might notice some monthly cycle irregularities as soon as you stop using contraception, however your period should return to normal within three to five months.

Remember, you can get pregnant as soon as you stop using the contraceptive.

Post-birth control syndrome (post-pill amenorrhea)

In case you don't get a period for several months, you may have what's called post-pill amenorrhea. Taking the pill prevents the production of hormones responsible for ovulation and menstruation. Your body may take some time to produce these hormones again after stopping the pill.

Your menstrual cycle usually resumes within three months after you stop taking the pill. When you take a pill to regulate your menstrual cycle, it may take several months for your period to return. It is advisable to do a pregnancy test if you do not get your period within three months of going off contraception, and if you experience other symptoms, speak to your doctor immediately.

It’s worth noting that if you have been taking birth control to treat other symptoms, such as regulating menstrual cycles or menstrual cramps, these symptoms may return once you stop taking the pill.

Can I get contraception online?

You can purchase contraception through euroClinix once you have completed a short online consultation form. For the purposes of assessing your suitability, our doctor will ask you some questions about your medical history and current medications you’re using during the consultation.

When ordering contraceptives, we understand that you need the medication fast, so we offer free next-day delivery for orders placed before our cut-off time.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Plauto Filho Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 16-03-2024

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