How long does it take for birth control to work?

If your contraceptive has been inserted, surely its effective straight away... right?... wrong!

When it comes to switching your birth control, or even starting for the first time, there are always hundreds of questions that come along with it. Like how long does it take for birth control to work, what are the side effects and will it give me spots?

Before starting on your new birth control, it’s important to know how long before it actually becomes effective – just because it’s in you, doesn’t mean it’s working!

How long does it takes birth control to work?

If you want to know how long to wait before you can wave goodbye to those condoms (even though they’re always good to keep in your purse for an emergency) then we’ve got you covered – from pills to patches, we’ve researched them all.

Combination pill

If you’re starting on the contraceptive pill, if it’s possible to take it on the first day of your period then you’ll be protected straight away.

However if you can’t quite get the timing right (because lets face it, easier said than done) and cannot start taking the combined pill until after your period has started, you’ll need to wait seven days before having unprotected sex. If you are having sex during this time, be sure to use another method, such as condoms, for the first seven days until it kicks in. 

Progestin-only pill

The progestin-only pill, more commonly known as the mini-pill, needs a barrier contraception for two days after starting the pills – in other words, use a condom or other form of contraceptive such as the vaginal ring.

If you accidentally skip a pill whilst on the mini pill, you should use a backup method of contraception for the next two days. 

Copper IUD

Once the copper IUD is inserted, it is effective instantly. You shouldn’t have to worry about using another form of contraception, unless you’re using it for protection from STI’s. 

Hormonal IUS

Similar to the pill, healthcare providers wait to insert the IUS until the week of your expected period. If your IUS is inserted within seven days of the beginning of your period, you will be immediately protected. However, if your IUS is inserted at any other time of the month, you will need to opt for a backup method. 

Implant

If the implant is inserted within the first five days of your period starting, then you will immediately be protected. If it’s inserted at any other time, you won’t be fully protected until after the first 7 days. 

Birth control shot (Depo-Provera)

If you get your first shot within five days of your period starting, it will only take 24 hours to ensure you’re protected. If you receive it after this time, you should continue to use another form of contraception for the next seven days.

When starting on the birth control shot, it’s important to get it every 12 weeks. If you are for whatever reason more than two weeks late for getting a follow-up shot, you should continue to use a backup method for seven days after your follow-up shot. 

Contraceptive patch

After you apply your first patch, you must wait seven days before you’re fully protected. If you are wishing to have sex during that period, then use an alternative form of birth control. 

NuvaRing

If you insert the vaginal ring on the first day of your period, you’re immediately protected from pregnancy. However if you start using the vaginal ring at any other period during the month, you should use back-up birth control for the next seven days. 

Male and female condom

Both the male and the female condom are effective straight away. However to ensure they are actually effective from preventing pregnancy, they must be inserted correctly. This means putting the condom on before any skin-to-skin contact or penetration.

As soon as the male has finished, you must hold the condom at the base of the penis, remove the condom from the penis and dispose of it.

You must also use a new condom every time you have sex for them to be effective. 

Diaphragm, cervical cap and sponge

All these methods are effective straight after insertion. Much like condoms, these methods need to be inserted properly for them to be fully effective.

It is important to fully understand what your doctor guides advises you during insertion, to ensure they’ll properly protect you. 

Sterilization

Tubal ligation

This procedure blocks your fallopian tubes to prevent an egg from reaching the uterus to avoid it from becoming fertilized.

This surgery is effective straight away, but you should wait one to two weeks after the operation to have sex (for comfort more than anything). 

Tubal occlusion

A tubal occlusion closes the fallopian tubes and prevents eggs from entering the fallopian tubes and uterus. This means sperm can’t reach the egg meaning it won’t be able to fertilize it. This procedure isn’t effective straight away. You will need to use a secondary birth control for three months, or until your doctor confirms the tubes are closed. 

If you’re starting a new form of contraception, it’s always good to explore your options by talking to your doctor / healthcare provider, or checking out The Lowdown reviews to help you make the right decision.

This guide was brought to you by The Lowdown. We are the world’s first contraception review platform, providing real-life experiences from thousands of reviews collected from our community of men and women.

Why not leave us a review of your contraceptive experience? Whether you’ve got good things to say about the Mirena coil or had trouble with implant removal, we want to hear about it! Tell us about your experience and help people around the world find the right method for them.