How Long Does It Take Birth Control To Work?


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how long does it take birth control to work

“You are pregnant!” This news can make women either jump with excitement or totally freak out. The most common rejoinder in the latter case is: “What? How? Why? But I was on birth control…” Most women get pregnant despite being on birth control, and cannot figure out where it went wrong. Besides many other factors that might have messed up, a common mistake is that they are not aware of “how long does it take birth control to work?”

Hence to avoid the unexpected pregnancy scare, you must know: How long are you not protected from pregnancy after starting a birth control method?

What factors determine the time for birth control to work?

“How long does it take birth control to work” depends on:

  • the method of birth control used
  • the time of the month you start using it
  • personal factors

Some methods start working immediately while others require some patience. You have to continue using backup methods like condoms until they are actually effective!

Do NOT panic! Let’s dive into each kind of birth control method separately.

Also Read: What is Medical Abortion? Its Types and Precautions

The Pill

The pill is basically a hormone medication that tricks your body into believing that it is already pregnant and prevents the release of eggs from ovaries. Cunning, isn’t it? But it needs to maintain that state for a couple of weeks before ovulation for your body to adjust to the new status.

The pills are taken every day for 3 weeks followed by a placebo week in which dummy pills without hormones are taken. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the pill is 99.7% effective with perfect use but 92% with typical use.

The Combination Pill: How long does it take birth control to work?

The combination pill contains both estrogen and progesterone. If you start taking your combination pills within the first five days of your period, you are lucky! You can have sex right away. But if not, you have to wait for 7 days. If you want to have intercourse during that duration, use backup methods like condoms.

The Progestin-only Pill: How long does it take birth control to work?

If you are a lactating woman or are concerned about the side-effects of estrogen, you can take the mini-pill which contains only progesterone. It is not as effective as the combination pill in suppressing ovulation. However, it thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperms from reaching the eggs.

It will start producing its “contraceptive effect” effectively two days later, regardless of the time you start using the pill.


  • This may be different for certain types of pills. Read the instructions on your pill carefully.
  • Do not miss the pill.
  • Take the pill at the same time every day.

If you miss the pill

  • If you have missed one pill, take the pill immediately when you remember, even if you have to take two pills in a day, and continue taking the pills normally. Fortunately, you are still protected from pregnancy; there is no need for extra contraception methods.
  • If you have missed 2 or more pills, take the pill immediately when you remember. But you should also use other contraceptive methods like condoms for 7 days in case of a combination pill and 2 days in case of progestin-only pill to be protected from pregnancy.

Also Read: What Are The Chances Of Getting Pregnant Before Period?

Can you become pregnant despite taking the pill on time?

You can become pregnant despite taking the pill if you are obese or taking the following drugs:

  • Rifampin (an antibiotic)
  • Griseofulvin (an antifungal drug)
  • HIV medication
  • Antiseizure medication for epilepsy
  • Modafinil
  • John’s Wort
  • Laxatives

Plan B: The morning after pill

In case you had unprotected sex or you were forced to have unprotected sex or your regular birth control method fails (e.g. your condom broke), it is time for Plan B. Take the morning after pill; but you need not wait for the morning to take it! As a matter of fact, the sooner you take it, the more effective it is. It may be effective for up to 4-5 days after unprotected sex.

Albeit, this is just an emergency control method. And you must not rely on it regularly.

Also Read: How Old You Have To Be To Buy a Condom?

Depo-Provera Shot

Depo-Provera is the injection women receive after every 3 months (12 weeks) for contraception. It contains the hormone medroxyprogesterone. It suppresses ovulation; and also changes the uterus lining and cervical mucus. It is 99% effective with perfect use and 97% with typical use.

How long does it take birth control to work?

The Depo-Provera injection starts working immediately if you get it within the first 5 days of your menstrual period. If taken at any other time, use backup methods for 7 days.

For instance, if your period starts on Monday 18th, you should have the shot anytime from Monday 18th till the end of Friday 22nd, if you want it to work immediately.

Also Read: How To Get a Women Pregnant Fast?

Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)

An intrauterine device or IUD is a reversible birth control method. It is a T-shaped device inserted in your uterus. There are two types of IUDs: Copper and Hormonal IUDs. Both of them cause the release of chemicals that kill sperms by causing an inflammation reaction. However hormonal IUDs also release progesterone that thickens cervical mucus and prevents the uterine lining thickening.

An IUD needs to be replaced after 3 to 10 years. They are 99% effective if checked for correct placement.

How long does it take birth control to work for Copper IUDs?

Just fit and forget! They are effective as soon as they are inserted.

Copper IUDs may also be effective for emergency contraception if taken within 5 days of unprotected sex.

How long does it take birth control to work for Hormonal IUDs?

If taken on the first day of your period, you are immediately protected. However taken at any other time, wait for another 7 days.

Also Read: All Newly Married Women Should Discuss This With Their Partners


An implant is a tiny flexible rod inserted in your upper arm that keeps you from getting pregnant for 3-5 years by releasing a small amount of hormone i.e. progesterone in your bloodstream. This reversible method of contraception is 99% effective.

How long does it take birth control to work?

Does it start protecting you from pregnancy immediately after it is inserted? If you have had it inserted during the first five days of your period, YES. Otherwise, use other methods like condoms for 7 days.


The Contraceptive Patch

You must be familiar with a nicotine patch. This transdermal patch is also similar to a nicotine patch but instead of nicotine, it releases hormones to shield you from pregnancy. New patches are applied weekly. The success rate is 91% with typical use and 99% with perfect use.

How long does it take birth control to work?

If the first patch is placed within 5 days of your period, it is effective right away. Otherwise, it takes 7 days to become effective.


You should not use it if you are over 35 years of age, obese, or a smoker.


Also Read: Top 10 Home-made Pregnancy Tests That Will Sort Your Confusion Out


This vaginal ring emits hormones which are absorbed in your body through the vaginal lining and prevent ovulation. It is 99% effective with perfect use and 92% with typical use.

How long does it take birth control to work?

Like other hormonal methods, it starts working immediately if inserted on the first day of your period. Otherwise, it takes 7 days to start protecting you from getting pregnant.


Barrier Methods

They say: “If you really love her, wear a cover!”

Male or female condoms, diaphragm, cervical cap, and sponge are included in the barrier methods. They do not allow the tiny swimmers i.e. ‘sperms’ from reaching the eggs. They are not very effective ranging from 94-98% effective with perfect use and 84-88% effective with typical use; at times even lower.

How long does it take birth control to work?

They are effective right away! However, make sure they are used correctly and fit well.

Also Read: Why Is It Healthy To Become Pregnant Before 30?

Sterilization Procedures

These are some of the most effective and irreversible methods of contraception. Hence these are typically used by women who never want to get pregnant again in life!

Tubal Ligation Method

It is typically referred to as “having your tubes tied”. A surgical procedure is performed to cut, tie off, clamp, or cauterize the fallopian tubes.

How long does it take birth control to work? This method has an immediate contraceptive effect. Hence, you are protected right away!

Tubal Occlusion Method

Tubal occlusion is similar to tubal ligation as it also created a barrier in the fallopian tubes. However, instead of performing surgery, a doctor inserts a small metal coil in the tubes via a catheter through the uterus.

How long does it take birth control to work? Use a secondary birth control method for 3 months after the tubal occlusion method.

Also read: 10 Things to Avoid in Pregnancy

Birth Control Methods for Men

70% of all contraceptives are used by women. However, some women are not able to use contraceptives due to health conditions or side effects. And many men might wish to take responsibility and use birth control methods. But currently, they have only two successful options available i.e. male condoms and vasectomy.

Nevertheless, scientists are making resurgent efforts to find novel contraceptives for men. A 2019 study by Arthi Thirumalai and Stephanie T Page explores recent developments in male contraception including hormonal methods such as the male pill and long-acting injections, and non-hormonal methods like reversible occlusive methods.

Male condoms: How long does it take birth control to work?

Like the female condom, male condoms are effective immediately.

Vasectomy: How long does it take birth control to work?

It is a surgical procedure that prevents sperms from coming in the semen by cutting or sealing the male sperm duct. However, it is effective 3 months later. A semen test 8-16 weeks post-op is recommended for confirmation.

Pull-out Method

It involves the withdrawal of the penis from the vagina before ejaculation. It is not effective most of the time. Do not rely on it even if you think you have good control and you won’t get her pregnant.

Also Read: Probable Signs of Pregnancy

Hard to Remember?

Too much information? Don’t worry. We’ll summarize it all for you to remember.

Quick Question: What are the contraception methods that work right away?

These are the methods that are not based on hormones.

Methods that work right away:
Condoms, Diaphragms, Cervical Cap, Sponge
Tube Ligation Method
Copper IUD


Most hormone-based methods work right away if taken in the first 5 days of your period. Otherwise, continue using backup methods for another 7 days.

Methods that work right away if used in the first five days of your period:
Combination pill
Depo-Provera Shot
Hormonal IUD


Others How long does it take birth control to work?
Progestin-only pill 2 days
Tubal Occlusion 3 months
Vasectomy 3 months



Unintended pregnancies account for 40-50% of pregnancies worldwide. Avoid the unexpected pregnancy scare by learning: “How long does it take birth control to work?” You must use backup methods until your method of contraception starts working. However:

  • The condom is the only method of birth control that protects against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)! It is better if you continue using it along with other methods.
  • When in doubt, consult your doctor! Better safe than sorry.


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