Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team. Updated on December 18, 2020

You finally got your first batch of birth control pills from Pandia Health in the mail. Woohoo! Now, you might be asking: “How soon can I have unprotected sex?” Well, don’t get too excited just yet – depending on which form of birth control you are on and where you are in your menstrual cycle, it may take a few days before you reach the level of protection necessary to protect you from unplanned pregnancy.

Every form of birth control is different so let’s take a look at how each type works. If you are not already signed up to receive your birth control pills with FREE delivery from Pandia Health, join today!

Cycle Timing Matters

How quickly your birth control method starts working depends on where you are in your menstrual cycle when it is introduced to your body.

If you are starting the pill, we recommend starting on the last day of your period, around day 3-5 of bleeding, depending how many days you bleed.

Other providers may tell you to start it the Sunday after you start your next period; this “Sunday Start” will cause you to bleed during the week (aka not ruin your weekend with a period!).

Why is this the recommended timing?

While you are on your period, you are likely not within your fertility window. The egg is discarded during menstruation along with the lining of the uterus (endometrium), which is there to support an embryo during pregnancy. With that said, there are always exceptions and you can get pregnant at any time during your cycle if your body randomly releases an egg or you experience a random bleed, or spotting

How fast do different types of birth control start working?

The birth control patch, ring, shot, hormonal IUD, or the implant should start working immediately if you start them within five days after the first day of your period. However, for individuals with a BMI of 30 or greater, it may take about a week for the new birth control to be recognized by the body. 

In terms of the pill, timing may differ depending on the specific type: combination pills versus progestin-only pills.

Combination Pills

If you take this pill within five days from the start of your period, it should start working right away! If you start it at any other point in your cycle, it will take seven full days to become effective

Progestin-Only Pills

This pill begins to work within 48 hours of starting it, no matter where you are in your cycle. 

Does “immediate” birth control actually work?

Some forms of birth control have guaranteed immediate action. For instance, tubal ligation, (getting your tubes tied), works immediately. The copper IUD also works right away and it can even be used as a form of emergency contraception – it’s actually the MOST effective emergency contraception out there.

How soon after I start birth control can I have sex?

You can have sex any time you and your parenter are in the mood! However, while birth control can be used to prevent unplanned pregnancy, additional forms of contraception (i.e. condoms) are recommended at all times to prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Your chances of pregnancy decrease when you combine these methods with condoms – YAY!

Dr. Sophia Yen, CEO and Co-Founder of Pandia Health, recommends using a backup method of contraception for at least one week after starting birth control to be absolutely safe; waiting one month may be a good idea for peace of mind. 

Play it Safe: Use a Condom!

Dr. Yen recommends that anyone with a uterus having penis-in-vagina relations use a condom. The main benefits include:

  1. Preventing STIs. Unless both partners have never experienced sexual activity (non-pentrative sex counts), then there is a risk of infection.
  2. No leaking of semen for the next 24 hours, which prevents the disruption of the natural flora and fauna of your vagina.

No glove, no love!

If you are worried about sensation, test out different types of condoms rather than skipping one altogether. Check out the “female/male” reviews of condoms.

What’s the takeaway?

Birth control is a wonderful tool that can be used not only to prevent pregnancy, but also to minimize period symptoms. With that said, it is important to follow the instructions provided by your doctor or on the back of your pill back in order to maximize the effectiveness. 

How can Pandia Health help?

Luckily, Pandia Health can help you decrease your risk of pregnancy conveniently with automatic refills. Sign up today so you can #SkipTheTrip to the pharmacy and get your birth control delivered right to your mailbox. If you have an existing prescription, get it transferred to our pharmacy and get automatic monthly refills for that #PandiaPeaceOfMind. If you live in AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IL, MI, NV, TX, TN, PA, WA, or WY and would like to start birth control for the first time, schedule an online consultation with one of our expert doctors. Join our community to support the mission that all women deserve affordable and accessible birth control! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do birth control pills work right away?

This depends on the type of birth control and how far along in your cycle that you start the prescription. While the IUD becomes effective immediately, other forms of birth control (i.e. the pill, patch, shot, and ring) take up to a week to start working. It is always a best practice to use an additional form of contraception if you plan to have sex. 

When can I have unprotected sex on birth control?

Theoretically, you should be protected from pregnancy about one week after starting birth control. With that said, using condoms is always a best practice in order to prevent the spread of STIs and other types of infections.

How to know if birth control is working?

Essentially, if you notice that your periods become more regular and/or you experience fewer symptoms before and during your period, you can be fairly confident that your birth control is working. 

Do I have to start birth control on a Sunday?

You can start birth control any day of the week. Some doctors recommend starting it on a Sunday so that any spotting you may experience will not disrupt your weekend. 

What happens if you start birth control before your period?

While it is okay to start birth control before your period, it will take longer for you to be protected from pregnancy. For this reason, many doctors recommend taking it towards the end of your period or immediately after it ends. 

Will I get my period while taking birth control?

Some pill packs contain placebo pills, which do not contain any hormones. When these pills are taken, you will bleed. This is not a period, but rather withdrawal bleeding that occurs due to lack of hormone. It is also possible to skip your periods altogether by only taking pills that contain the hormone. 

Can birth control mess up your period?

You may experience spotting during the first few months on the pill, as it takes some time for your body to adjust to the new hormones. However, over time, you should notice lighter, more consistent periods. 

Can you get pregnant while taking birth control?

It is possible to get pregnant, even if you take birth control. A common cause is taking the pill inconsistently (i.e. missing the pill frequently). Furthermore, if you take the pill less than you are supposed to – this depends on your specific pack – you are at a greater risk of becoming pregnant. ‘

DISCLAIMER: This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. Please consult YOUR doctor/provider before changing, stopping, or starting any medications.