How to Switch to a New Birth Control Pill

If you want to switch to a new birth control pill, there are things you need to consider. You may be switching from a mini-pill to a combined pill. Even for the same type of pills, different pill brands may contain slightly different doses of the hormones estrogen and progestin.

Girl buying contraceptive pills in a pharmacy
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Use these tips to ensure the transition is smooth and know when to start the new pack and when to use backup contraception.

Reasons for Switching

Before you switch pills, you need to have a discussion with your healthcare provider about which pill you want to change to, as well as your reasons behind this change and your expectations. Reasons for why you may switch pills are varied and can include one or more of the following:

  • You may be looking for a pill with certain non-contraceptive benefits, like reducing acne flares.
  • You may want the convenience of an extended cycle pill.
  • You may want to minimize certain side effects of your pill like nausea or irregular bleeding.
  • You may want to switch from a combination pill to a progestin-only one—possibly you have a new contraindication to estrogen (for example, migraines with auras). 

In the end, figuring out what pill you will be switching to is probably the hardest part of this whole process. Once you have made a decision, you can move forward with your new pill prescription in hand.

Switching Between Combination Pills

When switching from one pill to another, there are a couple of strategies, so be sure to confirm with your healthcare provider which one you should do. One strategy is to finish your entire old pill pack (including the placebo pills in the fourth week). Then, when you come to what would have been week one, day one of your old pill brand, start your new pill pack.

If you do this, you should have automatic pregnancy protection and do not need to use a backup birth control method. Just to be sure though, check the package insert (that comes with your new pill prescription) to double-check if you should be using a backup method for the first seven days.

Alternatively, you can actually start your new combination pill right away. That being said, if it has been more than five days since menstrual bleeding started, you need to abstain from sex or use backup contraception for the next seven days (for example, a condom).

It's important to be aware that your body may need to adjust to the new type, level, and/or dose of hormones in your new pill. Be prepared to possibly experience some side effects.

Most experts recommend giving your new pill brand at least three months for these side effects to go away before deciding if you want to stop it—in other words, patience is key here until your body adjusts. 

From Combination Pills to Mini-Pill

When switching from a combination pill to a mini pill, you can take your mini-pill immediately. But if it has been more than five days since you last had menstrual bleeding, you need to either abstain from sex or use backup contraception for the next two days.

From Mini-Pill to Combination Pill

If you are switching from a progestin-only pill to a combination pill, you can start the combined hormonal contraceptive right away. You do not need to wait for your next menstrual period.

If more than five days have passed since you last had menstrual bleeding, you should use a backup method for the first seven days of your new pill pack to avoid getting pregnant (or abstain from sexual intercourse).

A Word From Verywell

Switching birth control pills is a common process, and reasonable in many instances, as new lifestyle or personal issues arise. While it’s a good idea to be knowledgeable about your birth control options, let your healthcare provider help you decide what to start using—this is what they are trained to do, and they have experience working with people just like you.

Once you have the green light and are making the switch, be sure that you have continuous pregnancy protection and be aware if you need to use backup birth control by talking with your healthcare provider first. This will ensure a seamless switch and allow you to move forward without the worry of unintended pregnancy.

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Article Sources
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  2. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The pill, patch and ring.

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