If you’re unhappy with your birth control brand after trying it out for 3 months, you have every right to ask your healthcare provider for a different brand or dosage.
There are many reasons to consider switching birth control brands, including unwanted side effects, changes to your insurance or budget, and personal preference.
To ensure uninterrupted protection from pregnancy, you may need to leave some overlap between your old and new birth control. If that’s not possible, you may need to avoid sex or use a barrier birth control method for up to a week after switching, depending on your provider’s recommendations.
You may notice new side effects when you switch to a new form of birth control. Unless symptoms are persistent or severe, try to use the new birth control for 2 to 3 months before switching again. You may notice your side effects fading as your body adjusts to the new dosage.
Switching birth control pill brands
It’s 2022, and you deserve birth control you actually like. There are so, so many different options when it comes to contraception, and there’s no reason for you to feel stuck with one that isn’t working for you.
Switching birth control pill brands can seem a little intimidating—it’s prescription medicine, after all. But your provider should be happy to help you try out different birth control brands and methods until you find the perfect fit.
If you’re not happy with your current birth control brand, it’s probably time for a change.
As long as you’ve given your current prescription a fair shot (read: stuck with it for 2 to 3 months, unless your birth control side effects were too severe), you should be able to switch brands when things aren’t working.
Reasons for switching birth control brands: side effects and more
There are lots of reasons you may want to switch up your birth control. Maybe you’re experiencing some pretty gnarly side effects (think: headaches, bleeding, pain, cramping, mood changes, and gastrointestinal issues). Or maybe your current birth control doesn’t fit your budget anymore. Or your insurance coverage changed. Or you just want to try something new, like switching from the pill to an intrauterine device (IUD).
Different birth control pills work in different ways. They involve different mixes of hormones and come with unique potential side effects. If your current method isn’t a good fit, for whatever reason, it may be time to consider a change.
No matter why you want to switch to a new birth control brand, your healthcare provider should be happy to help you find the one that works best for you.
Switching birth control methods
When your birth control isn’t working, you’ll have to decide whether you want to switch up your method entirely or if you just want to try out another brand (aka a different birth control pill).
If you’re changing birth control methods—like switching from the patch to the pill or the implant to an IUD—you may need to overlap the two for anywhere from a couple days to a week.
Basically, you don’t want to stop taking your old birth control until you’re sure your new method is effective. If overlap isn’t possible, you may need to abstain from sex or use a barrier method (like condoms) until your new birth control is effective. As a bonus, condoms protect you from STIs.
For example, if you switch from an IUD to the pill, your provider may tell you to start taking the pill about a week before you get your IUD removed. The amount of overlap (if any) depends on which methods you’re switching between and your personal situation.
Either way, your provider should give you clear instructions on transitioning from one method to another. If you’re unsure about anything, don’t be afraid to ask questions!
How to safely switch birth control pill brands
If you’re a fan of the pill, but your current prescription leaves something to be desired, you may want to explore switching to a different pill brand. You’ve (hopefully) gotten into the habit of taking your pill at the same time every day. So, when you switch to your new pill, you shouldn’t have to change your daily routine.
When changing birth control brands, you’ll have two options:
Combination birth control pills containing estrogen and progestin
Progestin-only pills (aka “mini-pills”)
Keeping the same type of pill, like switching between two brands of combined hormonal contraceptives
Switching from combined hormonal contraceptives to progestin-only pills, or vice versa
If you choose the first option, your provider will likely have you take the first pill of your new prescription the day after you take the last pill of your old prescription. No gap days to interrupt your groove.
Oh, and don’t stress about finishing the last month of birth control that’s not working for you. There’s no need to finish your current birth control pack before switching, unless your provider tells you to.
If you switch from combination birth control pills to mini-pills, or vice versa, instead of switching to a different mix of the same hormone(s), you’ll be changing which hormones you take each day.
As your body gets used to this change, you may need to abstain from sex or use another birth control method (like condoms) for the first 7 days you’re on the new pill. Though being on a backup method while on a pill (such as internal or external condoms) is always a good idea to protect against STIs too.
What to expect after switching to a new birth control: side effects and “gap” days
Okay, you’ve chosen which type of birth control you want to switch to. What now? Your first concern will probably be symptoms. Will you experience new ones? Will you be free from the unwanted symptoms of your old method?
Everyone reacts to birth control hormones in different ways. That’s why there are so many options! If you experience new symptoms after the switch, they may include headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, or breakthrough bleeding.
Remember, it can take a few months for your body to adjust to a new birth control method. Experiencing symptoms when you start a new birth control doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be there three months down the line. Just make sure you keep your provider up-to-date on any new symptoms, especially severe ones.
Now, on to another common concern: gap days. Some birth controls can take up to a week to start working. Here’s a quick guide for best preventing pregnancy when switching to a new birth control:
Combination pills: If you start within 5 days of the first day of your last period, combination pills are immediately effective. If you start later in your cycle, it won’t be fully effective for 7 days.
Progestin-only pills: These are typically effective 2 days (48 hours) after you begin taking them.
IUDs: Effective timing can depend on the brand. Paragard (copper), Mirena, and Liletta can start preventing pregnancy immediately after they’re inserted. Kyleena and Skyla start working immediately if it’s been less than 7 days since the start of your last period. If not, they’ll take 7 days to start protecting you from pregnancy.
Contraceptive implant (Nexplanon): If it’s implanted 5 days or less after the start of your last period, it’s effective immediately. If not, it takes 7 days.
The patch: Same timeline as the implant.
Why it’s important to use backup birth control during the switch
As you saw in the last section, some birth control methods can take up to a week to start preventing pregnancy. If you’re not okay with the possibility of getting pregnant, you’ll want to make sure you’re protected in other ways during that first week. Better safe than sorry, right?
So, when you’re switching, you have two options for preventing pregnancy during that first week:
Avoiding penis-in-vagina sex
Using a barrier method or other form of protection
And it never hurts to double-check with your provider as to when you can rely on your new birth control as your sole method!
Get help making the switch with The Pill Club
It can be pretty easy to tell when something just isn’t working—whether it’s a new job, an old relationship, or your current birth control. While The Pill Club probably can’t help with the first two, we're obsessed with that third one. If you’re thinking about switching up your birth control, our medical team can help recommend a new one that fits your needs and lifestyle. Then, we’ll ship it directly (and discretely) to your home for free. Sign up today to learn more.
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