How Long Does It Take for Birth Control to Work?

What to Know About Effectiveness of Different Forms of Birth Control

Birth control is used to prevent pregnancy. There is a variety of birth control options available, and what is right for one person may not always be the right choice for another. Your healthcare provider will be able to guide you in choosing the right kind of birth control for you.

If you opt for certain methods, such as hormonal birth control, it can take time for the medication to become effective at preventing pregnancy. In the interim, you will want to use backup birth control (condoms) to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.

This article will review the different kinds of birth control and explain how soon they become effective at preventing pregnancy.

Birth control


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Methods and Types of Birth Control

There are several birth control options for both men and women. Deciding which one is right for you may include factors like efficacy, convenience, and affordability.

Implants

The birth control implant, sold under the brand name Nexplanon, is a thin rod that is inserted under the skin in the upper arm by a doctor. It contains a hormone called progestin that slowly releases throughout the body over a three-year period.

Injections

The "shot," or injectable form of birth control sold under the brand name Depo-Provera, is injected into the buttocks or the arm by a healthcare provider. This progestin-only form of birth control prevents pregnancy for 13 weeks or three months.

IUDs

With an intrauterine device (IUD), a doctor inserts a small, T-shaped device inside the uterus that works to prevent pregnancy for a certain number of years.

There are two types of IUDs: hormonal and nonhormonal.

The nonhormonal copper IUD (sold under the brand name ParaGard) is effective for up to 10 years.

There are four types of hormone-releasing IUDs approved in the United States. These all contain progestin-only:

  • Mirena: Effective for up to seven years
  • Liletta: Effective for up to six years
  • Kyleena: Effective for up to five years
  • Skyla: Effective for up to three years

Patches

The birth control patch is a method of birth control that is worn externally, on the buttocks, lower abdomen, or upper parts of the body. The patch releases both estrogen and progestin into the blood. A new patch is applied to the body once a week for three weeks. On the fourth week, a patch is not worn, and your period occurs.

Pills

Commonly known as "the pill," birth control pills are taken by mouth daily. There are two types of birth control pills:

  • Combination pills: These pills contain both the progestin and estrogen hormones to prevent pregnancy. The pill is taken every day at the same time.
  • Progestin-only pill: Also called POP or the minipill, this medication contains only progestin. It must be taken in the same three-hour window each day. It may be preferable for those who can't take pills containing estrogen.

Rings

The hormonal vaginal contraceptive ring NuvaRing (eluryng) is worn inside the vagina. It releases both progestin and estrogen into the body. The ring is worn inside the body for three weeks. On the fourth week, it is removed and your period occurs. A new ring is then put back in.

Condoms, Diaphragms, and Spermicide

Condoms, diaphragms, and spermicide are all barrier methods of birth control.

The male condom is worn on the penis and stops sperm from entering the vagina during penis-in-vagina sex. The male condom also protects against STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The female condom is inserted into the vagina to prevent sperm from entering the body during penis-in-vagina sex. The female condom can be inserted up to eight hours before intercourse. The female condom may also help guard against STDs.

The diaphragm is a shallow cup that is placed inside the vagina to block sperm from entering the body. Diaphragms come in different sizes and a doctor must do a fitting to find the appropriate size. Diaphragms should be used with a spermicide.

Spermicides (which work to immobilize sperm) come in a cream, foam, gel, suppository, or tablet form. The spermicide is inserted into the vagina no more than an hour before intercourse occurs. The spermicide is left in the vagina for at least six to eight hours following sex.

Tubal Ligation and Vasectomy

Tubal ligation, or having your "tubes tied," is a surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes (which connect the ovaries to the uterus) are cut or sealed off so fertilization of a sperm and egg can't occur.

Vasectomy is a procedure that cuts off the tubes that carry sperm to the penis. After a vasectomy, there will be no sperm in the ejaculate. A vasectomy is an outpatient procedure performed under local anesthesia. Following the operation, tests are performed to count sperm and ensure the sperm count is at zero. This can take roughly 12 weeks.

How Long Does It Take for Birth Control to Work?

How quickly birth control works varies based on birth control method.

Implants

If the implant is inserted during the first five days of your period, you are protected from pregnancy immediately.

If it is inserted at any other time, it will take a week to be effective.

Injections

If the injection is given within the first week of your period starting, you are immediately protected from pregnancy.

If the shot is given within seven days of an abortion or miscarriage, protection is immediate. If the shot is given within three weeks of giving birth, protection is immediate.

At all other times, it will take a week for the injection to be completely effective at protecting against pregnancy.

IUDs

The copper IUD Paraguard is immediately effective at protecting against pregnancy (and is effective as emergency contraception if inserted within five days of having unprotected sex).

All hormonal IUDs are immediately effective if they are inserted within seven days of the start of your period. If you have the IUD inserted at any other time, it will not be effective for one week. During that time, you should use backup birth control (condoms) or abstain from sex to prevent pregnancy.

Patches

If applied during the first five days of your period, the patch immediately protects against pregnancy.

If applied at any other time, it will take a week before the patch protects against pregnancy. 

Pills

If you start the combination pill in the first five days of your period starting, you are immediately protected against pregnancy. At any other time, it will take a week to be fully protected.

If taking the progestin-only pill, protection will be effective after 48 hours. The Slynd progestin-only pill offers immediate protection if taken on day one of your period.

Rings

If the ring is inserted within the first five days of your period starting, it will work immediately. If it is inserted at any other time, it will take a week before it is effective.

Condoms, Diaphragms, and Spermicide

If worn correctly from start to finish of sexual intercourse, condoms provide immediate protection against pregnancy and STDs.

If used correctly, a diaphragm can offer immediate protection once inserted.

Not all spermicides are effective immediately. Some need to be inserted into the vagina 10–15 minutes prior to sex. Some spermicides are only effective for an hour after insertion. Follow the packaging instructions carefully to optimally prevent pregnancy.

Tubal Ligation and Vasectomy

Tubal ligation is immediately effective at protecting against pregnancy.

Vasectomy can take about 12 weeks to be effective. Backup contraception (condoms) should be used until your healthcare provider confirms that your ejaculate no longer contains sperm.

Side Effects and Symptoms of Birth Control

All methods of birth control can have side effects. However, side effects from hormonal birth control methods, such as the implant, patch, and the pill, are often temporary and usually go away within a few months, once the body has adjusted to the hormones.

Side effects of the implant may include:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Sore breasts
  • Mood swings
  • Irregular bleeding or spotting

Side effects of the injection may include:

  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Mood swings
  • Breast tenderness
  • Irregular bleeding

Side effects of the IUD may include:

  • Pain during insertion
  • Spotting
  • Irregular periods

Side effects of the patch may include:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Sore breasts
  • Changes in mood
  • Skin irritation, itchiness, and soreness
  • Spotting

Side effects of the pill may include:

  • Nausea
  • Sore breasts
  • Headaches
  • Changes to periods
  • Spotting

Side effects of the ring may include:

  • Spotting
  • Bleeding
  • Increase in vaginal discharge
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Mood changes
  • Sore breasts

Side effects of spermicide may include:

  • Irritation to the vagina
  • Irritation to surrounding skin

Side effects of the diaphragm may include:

  • Higher risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Strong odors if left in too long
  • Vaginal discharge if left in too long

When to See a Healthcare Provider About Options

Never be embarrassed to discuss issues like sex or birth control with your healthcare provider. If you are having sex and need guidance about which birth control is right for you, your doctor can answer your questions, address any concerns you might have, and provide educational materials to help guide you in your decision.

There are many different birth control options, and it may take some trial and error to find the one that works best for your body and your lifestyle.

A Word From Verywell

There are a number of birth control options available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some may have side effects, and the efficacy of protection against pregnancy varies among different kinds of birth control. Your healthcare provider will be able to help you decide what type of birth control is best for your body and your lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take for birth control to work if I miss a pill?

    It is important to know what to do if you miss a birth control pill, as you may not be protected against pregnancy. Every form of birth control pill is different, and the timing and number of pills missed will impact how protected you are. If you're unsure, use backup contraception (condoms) until you have taken an active pill for seven consecutive days. This tool from Planned Parenthood can help tell you what to do if you miss a pill.

  • Will my birth control still work if I am taking antibiotics?

    Most antibiotics don't impact birth control. However, antibiotics like Rifadin (rifampicin) or Mycobutin (rifabutin) may have an effect on birth control. If you are taking these antibiotics, you may need to use an additional type of contraception like condoms. You should discuss this with your doctor.

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19 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  6. Planned Parenthood. How effective is the birth control pill?

  7. Planned Parenthood. How do I use the birth control ring?

  8. Planned Parenthood. How effective are condoms?

  9. Planned Parenthood. How effective are diaphragms?

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  18. Teens Health. The Diaphragm. Updated May 2018.

  19. NHS. Will antibiotics stop my contraception working? Updated January 28, 2019.