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When to Start a New Package of Birth Control Pills

by Andrea Lott
  • Overview

    Birth control pills come in two varieties: combination pills that contain the the hormones progestin and estrogen, and the "mini-pill" that contains progestin only. Both varieties provide over 95 percent protection against pregnancy when taken as directed. When one package of birth control pills has been taken, begin taking the next one right away to avoid an interruption in pregnancy prevention.
  • The Combination Pill

    In combination birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progestin, packs typically come with 21 active pills and seven placebo pills. The active pills contain the hormones needed for pregnancy prevention, and the placebo pills contain no medicine, but are used as a reminder to keep you in the habit of taking the pill every day. If you are taking all 28 pills, simply begin taking the next pack when the current pack of 28 pills is finished, at the same time each day. You will have a period while taking the placebo pills. If you want to skip a period that month, you can skip taking the placebo pills. In this instance, take the 21 active pills in the current pack. The next day, instead of taking the first placebo pill, take the first pill in the new pack. Because the placebo pills are not medically necessary, some brands of combination birth control pills package the pills without these placebos and market the period-skipping benefit to women. Skipping a period by taking active birth control pills continuously puts a woman at greater risk for bleeding or spotting between periods, but is otherwise healthy for most women. If, while taking combination birth control pills, you forget two or more active pills, you may get your period. In this case, you can either throw away the rest of that pack and start a new pack that day, or simply skip the missed pills and take the rest of the pack. Use a backup birth control method such as condoms for seven days to prevent pregnancy, and talk to a doctor about emergency birth control if you have had unprotected sex during or after having missed birth control pills.
  • Mini-Pill

    If you are taking a birth control that only contains progestin, all 28 pills are active and there are no placebo pills. Take all the pills in each package at the same time every day, then start immediately the next day taking the new pack. While taking a progestin-only pill, you may not get a period at all, or you may have a period during your fourth week of taking pills. If you miss more than one progestin-only pill, continue taking the pills one at a time each day, starting with the missed pills, and proceed with the rest of the pack. Do not double up on the dosage to "catch up" on missed pills. Use a backup method of birth control such as condoms for seven days and talk to a doctor about emergency birth control if you've had unprotected sex during that time.
  • First-Time Pill Use

    If it's the first time you've ever taken birth control or after a long break from them, start a new pack of birth control pills on the first Sunday after your menstrual cycle, according to YoungWomensHealth.org. You should use a second method of birth control that first month, just to be safe.
  • Warnings

    Birth control pills offer no protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Use a condom or abstain from sex to protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted illnesses. Ask a doctor about birth control options for your specific situation and take birth control pills according to the directions on the package unless instructed by a physician.

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