Do You Need to Use a Back-Up Method When Switching Birth Control?

You may want to switch birth control methods to reduce side effects, opt for increased convenience or improve effectiveness. Changing from a barrier method of birth control to a hormonal contraceptive is one option, but you may also change from one hormonal contraceptive to another. Staying safe and preventing pregnancy while you switch is key, but your circumstances will affect whether you should use a back-up method of contraception.


Hormonal birth control, including the pill, shot, vaginal ring and patch, work in three distinct ways. The hormones prevent ovulation from occurring, but also thicken cervical fluid to provide a natural barrier and thin the uterine lining, creating an inhospitable environment, according to Planned Parenthood. Understanding how hormonal contraceptives work can help you make the right choices about back-up birth control when switching methods.

The Pill

When switching to oral contraceptives, if you begin your new birth control pills on the first day of your period, you will not need a back-up birth control method, according to The Pill website. If you opt for a Sunday start on the first Sunday after your period, you will need to use a back-up method for the first seven days. You can use this strategy when switching from one hormonal birth control method to another. If you are simply changing your birth control pill prescription, start your new prescription when you are ready for a new pill pack. There is no need for a back-up contraceptive.


If you need to use a back-up contraceptive, choose a barrier method that works for you. Condoms are an accessible, affordable and convenient choice while still being highly effective, according to Planned Parenthood. You can also opt for another barrier method, like a sponge or diaphragm, if you prefer. As an alternative, abstaining from intercourse until your new birth control is effective provides total pregnancy protection.

The Ring

If you are switching from condoms to the vaginal ring, allow seven days for the ring to be effective. Use a back-up method during this first week. If you are switching from birth control pills to the vaginal ring, insert the ring within seven days from your last active birth control pill. In this situation, a back-up contraceptive is not required. If you are switching from the ring after an IUD removal or when a birth control shot is scheduled, if the ring is inserted immediately after removal or when the shot is due, it will be effective immediately, according to the Birth Control Comparison website.


When changing to a new hormonal contraceptive, you have two start choices. The first is to start simply on the first day of your cycle. This option reduces your need for back-up birth control, but it may be less easy to remember or just inconvenient. A Sunday start is often suggested also, as you can easily predict when to expect your period and when you will need a new pill or ring. You can manage your birth control with less fuss.

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