The birth control pill is one of the greatest innovations in women’s health. It allows safe, effective, and convenient protection against unwanted or unplanned pregnancy by giving women more control over their own sex lives and reproductive health. Knowing what to expect when starting the pill can make it easier to decide if it’s right for you, and ensuring you take it correctly can make all the difference. If you’re new to birth control, you should know all about what to expect during your first few months on the pill.
Protection May Not Be Immediate
Protection May Not Be Immediate
You may need to use a backup method of birth control when you start the pill, depending on where you are in your cycle and the sort of pill you're taking. The combination pill, which contains estrogen and progestin, and the progestin-only or mini-pill are the two forms of birth control pills.
Only if you start taking the combination pill within five days of your period will you have immediate protection. If you start mid-cycle, you'll need to use backup for 7-14 days (depending on what your doctor recommends for that brand). If you start on a progestin-only pill, you will be protected after 48 hours, regardless of where you are in your cycle.
Minor Negative Side Effects
It is not uncommon to experience any of the following side effects as your body reacts and adjusts to the increase and initial fluctuations in hormone levels that occur when you begin taking the pill:
- Nausea (due to suddenly high levels of estrogen)
- Breast tenderness
- Weight changes
- Mood/emotional fluctuations
These side effects should subside once your body has adjusted to the birth control pill and your hormone levels have stabilized (usually after three months).
You Might Spot
You Might Spot
Intermittent spotting and a small amount of irregular bleeding are very common in women starting the birth control pill for the first time. We've outlined this side effect because, if it catches you off guard, it can be very distressing. It will take a few months for your period to establish a pattern, so don't be concerned if you spotting in between for the first few months.
It's also possible that your period won't start on the first day of your inactive tablets, but rather on one of the later pills that week. You might even skip menstruation for the first month or so, depending on whichever pill you're on. If your bleeding is heavy or unusual, you should consult your doctor.
Positive Health Benefits
Although you may not notice or completely benefit from the additional health benefits of birth control until after three months, you can expect a few extra benefits once any bad side effects have subsided. These advantages could include:
- Clearer skin/reduced acne
- Increasingly regular (and sometimes shortened) periods
- Milder cramps
- Lighter bleeding
- Fewer mood swings throughout your cycle
- Reduces risks of ovarian cysts
To achieve the 99 percent effectiveness that has made the birth control pill such a popular method of contraception, you must take your pill at the same time every day. This can be difficult to remember when you're first starting out, so take any extra steps necessary to help you develop the habit, such as setting a daily alarm or leaving your pills on your nightstand to take immediately before bed each night.
There's no need to panic if you forget to take a pill. You should refer to your brand's specific instructions, but here are some general guidelines for missing an active pill:
If you forget to take a pill, take it as soon as you remember (even if you're taking two on the same day) and continue on with your pack as usual. You won't need backup protection in this situation. If you forget to take more than one active combination pill, take one right away, throw the other, and utilize backup contraception until you've taken seven active pills in a row. If you haven't taken two active tablets in the last five days and have had unprotected sex, you should consider using emergency contraception.
As soon as you remember, take the missed pill (again, even if you end up taking two on the same day). For the next two days, use backup protection. Even if you only miss one progestin-only pill, you should use emergency contraception if you've had unprotected sex in the past five days.
If you’re at the beginning of your contraceptive journey, our medical professionals at Get My Pill can assist you. We offer various birth control options and if you have any questions about using the birth control pill or need help accessing it, you can simply book a digital consultation with a Get My Pill medical doctor.