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How long after I start taking pills do I have to wait before I am protected? #1160/7

Starting Pills: How long after I start taking the pills do I have to wait before I'm protected? I took birth control up until about March this year, and went off it because it used to make me sick.

My Doctor just prescribed me another brand with different hormone levels to combat the sickness. The information on the package states that birth control pills become effective after 7 days. 

I have heard from other sources that this is more of a "safety" for the company, and that most girls are protected immediately.

I usually have about a 30 day cycle, so I don't know if I would even be ovulating within the first 7 days. My period started on Wednesday and I'm starting the pill tomorrow.

Any information would be really appreciated! Thanks!

(1) Both your friends and the package information are correct.  ALL women are protected AFTER 7 days after starting oral contraceptive pills, no matter when in a cycle they start. 

(2) Use of a backup for 7 days is recommended if pills are started beyond the 5th day since a period began.

(3) If you start pills early in your cycle (within 5 days of the start of a period) you are protected immediately and women in this situation are generally told they need NOT use backup contraception when starting pills.  It sounds as though you are in this category.
(4) If any woman is in any doubt, she should use a backup contraceptive for those first 7 days of taking birth control pills.


Key Words:  birth control pills, protected, sick, different hormone levels, effective, safety, cycle, ovulating, period

Posted 12-17-2007, Updated 12-21-2007, Updated 1-12-2008, Updated 1-20-2008 

Robert A. Hatcher MD, MPH
Emeritus Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Emory University School of Medicine
Atlanta, GA

The directors and owners of this website and any publications and information concerning health matters offered here advise a person with a particular problem to consult a primary-care clinician or a specialist in obstetrics, gynecology, or urology (depending on the problem or the contraceptive) as well as the product package insert and other references before diagnosing, managing, or treating the problem.
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