Make No Mistakes: When are Birth Control Pills Effective?

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when are birth control pills effective

Among the contraceptive methods, effective birth control pills rely on two factors: consistency and timing. To begin with, opting for a contraceptive method displays responsibility, but being knowledgeable in it — that’s a different story.

Before specifying it into birth control pills, learning about your different options is a must. Read on to learn more about the available methods, how to choose the right one, and a useful timeline of things.

Common Types of Available Contraceptive Methods

With a leading healthcare industry and system, Australia offers a wide range of contraceptive methods for males and females. On that note, an individual should learn about their available options before committing to one.

Male & Female Condoms

As the more common of the two, individuals use male condoms each time they participate in sexual intercourse. To prevent STIs and pregnancy, the latex material must be rolled onto an erect penis before any physical contact with the mouth, vagina or anus. This is heavily emphasised as pregnancy remains a possibility when sperm spills near the vagina.

On the other hand, female condoms are less popular.

Inserted into the vagina, the polyurethane (plastic) pouch consists of two soft rings: inner and outer. On the outside, it partly covers the labia, or lips, and inside, the ring rests near the cervix. Essentially, the inner ring holds it in place in order to collect the sperm and prevent it from making internal contact.

Deemed as the best option for STI protection, male condoms only sustain their 98% effectivity if worn properly. If not, the condom could break and lead to unintended pregnancy or sexually-transmitted infections.


Locally, the method is available as Implanon NXT™ — a contraceptive implant.

Inserted right under the skin on the arm, the 4-centimeter plastic rod releases a hormone that prevents the monthly egg release. As the placement and technique requires specificity, a licensed professional, like a doctor or nurse, conducts the procedure.

In terms of duration, the implant prevents pregnancy for 3 years at 99.8% effectivity. It comes close to the 100% mark, but remember: no contraceptive method offers 100%. Known as a LARC method, or long-acting reversible contraception, an individual may choose to remove it before the 3-year mark. And with an emphasis on ‘reversible’, implants do not affect your future pregnancy plans and is completely safe for breastfeeders.

how long does it take for birth control to work

Intrauterine Devices

A fellow LARC method, intrauterine devices or most commonly known as IUDs, have two types: hormonal and copper.

When properly inserted into the uterus, the small device serves as one of the most effective contraceptive methods. More specifically, only 1 in 100 women with IUDs become pregnant. The IUD lasts for 5 years or more, however, it does not offer STI protection. Therefore, individuals need to use condoms for STI protection.


The last LARC method on the list is contraceptive injections, such as Depo-Provera™ or Depo-Ralovera™.

In essence, these hormonal injections carry a progesterone-like hormone that stops ovulation and triggers thick fluid on the uterus opening. As a more effective option than birth control pills, it still requires time and consistency. The effectivity drops from 99.8% to 94% if the interval extends beyond 12 to 14 weeks.

Aside from effectivity, it is a relief for most to wait 12 to 14 weeks rather than a crucial, daily birth control pill.

Combined Pill: Effective Birth Control Pills

Among the two types of birth control pills, combined pills vary in carried doses and hormones.

Taken as a daily tablet, intake usually starts within the first 5 days of your natural period. In other cases, your doctor may suggest a QuickStart which is starting the combined pills later into your cycle. When it is taken in a timely, consistent-manner, combined pills are 99.7% effective. Although, this number decreases with diarrhea, vomiting or medication that interferes with pill absorption.

Mini Pill: Effective Birth Control Pills

Lastly, daily mini pills, or also known as the progestogen only pill, consists of a hormone that is similar to what ovaries release. These pills must be taken at the same time everyday, and a mere difference of 3 hours decreases effectiveness.

When it is taken properly, this contraceptive method is 99% effective. However, it becomes 93% through a missed pill, vomiting within 2 hours of intake, severe diarrhea or certain medications. With a single pack containing 28 hormone pills, you start a new pack to maintain continuity.

Aside from the contraceptive methods discussed, many more are available for you like, diaphragms, caps, vasectomy, female sterilisation, vaginal rings, emergency contraception, and natural family planning.

In the event that you accidentally miss a scheduled pill or two, visit What Happens If I Start My Birth Control Late?.

How Do I Choose the Right Contraceptive Option?

Ultimately, there is no right method that applies to everyone — this is unique to every individual.

First thing to do is gain accurate information on all of the available options to you. These pieces of information include side effects, the ease of use, and its cost. On top of this, the method should match your overall health and wellbeing, lifestyle, relationships, and prioritised purpose (STI or pregnancy prevention or both). If the process of choosing and committing is overwhelming, it is a good idea to turn to a health expert.

Meeting with your general practitioner, OB-GYNE or reproductive health nurse allows you to view the pros and cons and future path with the different methods. You may visit Clinica Finder to consult or go through the list by the Better Health Channel:

  • 1800 my options provides information about a range of private and public clinics and services Tel. 1800 696 784.
  • Community health services and some hospitals have sexual health, women’s health, sexual and reproductive health or family planning clinics which offer contraceptive services.
  • Family Planning Victoria – comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services for people of all ages Tel. 1800 013 952 or (03) 9257 0100.
  • Private clinics offering abortion also offer contraceptive services.

Can Your General Practitioner Prescribe Birth Control?, a common question.

Timeline of Effective Birth Control Pills

With prevention and effectivity in mind, the answer of when birth control pills are effective, varies.

For combined pills, it takes 7 days of daily, regular intake of the hormonal pills until you are protected from unintended pregnancy.

On the other hand, the mini pill is immediately effective if it is taken within the first 5 days of your natural period. Beyond the 5-day mark, it is best to take additional birth control measures for the first 2 days of taking the mini pill.

when are birth control pills effective

Visit Clinica Finder to consult with a general practitioner and submit an anonymous health-related query on AskDoc for any additional questions you may have.

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