Getting Started With Birth Control
You have birth control choices depending on your needs and preferences.
Birth control pills use hormones to prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation or fertilization from occurring.
While you need a prescription for birth control, you don’t have to only get it from your healthcare clinic.
You can start birth control pills once you ovulate for the first time.
When looking to prevent pregnancy, there are an abundance of ways to do it. But knowing when to start birth control and which type is right for you can be confusing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we’ve got you covered.
Here, we’ll briefly discuss your birth control options, how and when to start birth control, and what you need to keep in mind when using these methods.
First: Choosing a Birth Control Method
There are different methods of birth control available depending on your needs and preferences.
Barrier forms of birth control mean you need to use them every time you have sex. Both male and female condoms fall under this category. These work by physically blocking sperm from entering the uterus through the vagina and don’t contain any hormones.
Short-acting hormone methods
Short-term forms of birth control need to be taken every day, even when you aren’t having sex, or switched out every week or month. They use hormones to prevent pregnancy.
Birth control pills, patches, and rings use synthetic estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy.
The mini pill and birth control shot use progestin only to prevent pregnancy.
Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs)
If you don’t want to remember to take your birth control on a regular basis, you can choose a type of birth control that can last for several years, known as LARCs. These include:
Intrauterine device (IUD): IUDs are T-shaped pieces of plastic that are placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy, lasting 3 to 10 years. Hormonal IUDs use progestin to prevent ovulation. Copper IUDs use copper to keep sperm from fertilizing an egg instead of hormones.
Implants: Inserted just under the skin of your upper arm, these small rods slowly release progesterone into your blood for up to three years to prevent pregnancy.
Getting a Prescription for Birth Control
A healthcare provider will need to evaluate you and, if eligible, give you a prescription for birth control. However, you can get this prescription from a community health center, online, or from a pharmacist, depending on your state.
You don’t always need to have a pelvic exam to get birth control, but you will need to answer some questions about your medical history in order to figure out the best form of birth control for you. For instance, birth control implants and IUDs need to be inserted in the clinic.
How Do Birth Control Pills Work?
Birth control pills use estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy by:
Stopping ovulation, meaning they prevent an egg from leaving the ovary
Preventing fertilization (where sperm enters the egg) by causing cervical mucus to thicken, the lining of the uterus to thin, and the egg to travel slower in the fallopian tube
When You Should Start Taking Your Birth Control Pills
Birth control pill brands have their own guidelines, but in general, you can start taking them as soon as you get them. The timing of when you first start birth control pills depends on how long it takes for it to prevent pregnancy.
If you’re taking a combination pill of estrogen and progestin, you don’t need a backup birth control, such as a condom, as long as you start taking your pills within 5 days of starting your period. Starting on any other day of your cycle means you need backup birth control for 7 days.
When starting the mini pill, use backup birth control for 48 hours, or two days.
Keep in mind, while birth control pills are about 93% to 99% effective for most people, they also don’t protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you’re concerned about STIs, it’s always a good idea to use a barrier method such as a condom, regardless of pregnancy prevention.
Birth control pill side effects
You might be wondering if birth control can cause headaches or other negative side effects. Headaches can be normal when starting the pill, along with sore breasts and nausea.
When starting birth control, it’s common for your period to be off for 2 to 3 months. You may notice your period is early or late, or you skip it completely. You can also have bleeding in-between periods, which is known as breakthrough bleeding.
When To Start a Vaginal Ring
If you insert a vaginal ring on the first day of your period, it starts protecting you from pregnancy right away. However, if you insert the ring on days 2 through 5 of your period, you will need a backup method for the next 7 days.
But, let’s say you’re already on another form of birth control and want to switch to the ring. To do this, you would simply insert the ring when you are due to start a new pack of pills. If you are switching from a long-term birth control, such as an IUD, you can place the ring inside right away. Those with an IUD, or using the mini pill or shot, need to use a backup method for seven days.
Inserting the ring
First, wash your hands and check the package expiration date to make sure the ring isn’t expired.
Squeeze the ring’s two sides together with your fingers and push it up as far as you can into your vagina. You may need to push it in further if you can feel it as you move around.
Don’t worry about putting it in too deep, you can’t lose it in your vagina.
If you’re using an Annovera ring, make sure it’s washed and patted dry before inserting or storing it.
Age and Birth Control: At What Age is it Safe to Start Birth Control
Generally, birth control can be started once you ovulate for the first time, but it’s important to realize you can ovulate before you actually get a period. Young teenagers can use birth control when they become sexually active. Talk with your healthcare provider to figure out which birth control option might be best for you.
According to research, birth control pills have been shown to be safe for teenagers. Using a long-term method of birth control, such as an IUD, can be easier and more effective for teens than remembering to take a pill daily.
Condoms are also an option if someone can’t use birth control pills. Alternatively, emergency contraceptives such as Plan B can also be kept as a backup. Plan B is available over-the-counter to those of any age.
When to start birth control is up to you, but there are some important things to keep in mind such as the method you’re using and the timing of starting. Birth control can cause headaches, in addition to other side effects such as changes in your period, fatigue, and breast tenderness.
The Pill Club can help you decide which birth control option may be right for you, and is here for your reproductive health planning. Sign up today to figure out your options.