How Long Does it Take for Birth Control to Work?

By Robynn Lowe
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
March 14, 2022

If you are thinking of starting birth control or switching to a different method of contraception, then you most likely have some questions. You might be wondering how long you have to wait before your birth control works.

How long it takes for birth control to work largely depends on the method you choose to use. There are different types of contraceptives available today.

Talking with your doctor will help you decide the right one for you. 

Your menstrual cycle phase, how you use the contraceptives, and the birth control mechanism are all factors that determine how long it takes for birth control to work.

In this article, we’ll explore the different types of birth control options, any side effects you may need to be aware of, and also discuss who to turn to for help when you want to prevent pregnancy.

Different Types of Birth Control

Birth control is the use of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy.

One common birth control method is the use of barrier methods like condoms which help prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases and infections (STDs and STIs). 

Most birth control methods can be used at any time during your menstrual cycle, and you won’t have to wait for the first day of your period to begin.

However, check with your doctor for accuracy and usage guidelines.

Here are some common types of birth control your physician may recommend for you:

  • Barrier methods: These types of birth control act as a ‘barrier’ to stop the sperm from reaching the egg. Barrier methods of birth control include male and female condoms, diaphragms, sponges, cervical caps, and spermicides. These must be used correctly and usually as a backup method of birth control alongside others to be more effective in preventing pregnancy.
  • Injectable (Depo Provera): Depo Provera is an injectable form of birth control containing  progestin. The progestin thickens cervical mucus and prevents ovulation. This injection has to be given every 3 months on a specific schedule to be most effective (every 12-13 weeks).
  • Implant: Birth control implants, also called arm bars are tiny thin rod devices inserted underneath the skin. The implant currently available in the US is the Nexplanon. This progestin arm implant (Nexplanon®) is inserted into the upper arm and prevents pregnancy by releasing hormones into your body. It can be left in the body for three to five years, but consult your medical professional for detailed advice.
  • IUD: An Intrauterine Device (IUD), or copper coil, is a tiny device (usually T-shaped) that you can insert into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUDs can be hormonal or non-hormonal. Also, depending on the type, you can place an IUD in the uterus for six to ten years
  • Vaginal ring: This is also called a NuvaRing. Unlike the IUD which is inserted into the uterus, the vaginal ring is inserted into the vagina, and you can do that yourself without the help of a healthcare professional. This birth control releases hormones into your body to prevent ovulation and pregnancy and is effective for up to a few weeks at a time.
  • Birth control pills: Oral contraceptive pills are one of the most widely used birth control methods in the United States. There are several types of birth control pills, such as progestin-only and combination pills. Birth control pills thicken the cervical mucus, making it hard for sperm to fertilize an egg. They are also used to regulate menstrual cycles and hormones.

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How Long Each Birth Control Takes to Work 

Some birth control will take effect almost immediately, while some will start working after a few days.

Each one works differently, and each person’s body will react uniquely to each birth control.

Here is a detailed breakdown of what to expect:

Almost immediately

Most barrier and injectable methods of birth control take effect almost immediately. Many IUDs, condoms, and vaginal rings protect you from pregnancy as soon as you insert or wear them.

These methods must be inserted and used properly and securely to be most efficient. These birth control options need to fit well and not slip out. It is also important that you understand how they work for your body. 

Up to seven days

If you start a combination birth control pill within the first five days of your period, then you are likely to be protected almost immediately. If not, you have to wait up to a week for it to work.

The progestin-only pill will take effect after two days of use. 

After seven days

Birth control surgeries such as tubal ligation, tubal occlusion, vasectomies, and other forms of sterilization procedures can take several weeks to heal and take effect. 

It is crucial that you consult your doctor or any healthcare professional for advice before taking any birth control.

It is also advisable that you use barrier methods of birth control along with others for added protection.

Make sure you allow sufficient time for the birth control to start taking effect and be clear about its usage and dosage.

Side Effects of Birth Control 

Each method of birth control comes with its own side effects.

Each will react differently to each person’s body and hormones.

Some side effects of birth control include:

  • Swelling, tenderness, lumps, and soreness in the breast tissues and chest area
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Irritability, mood swings, depression, and anger
  • Irregular periods for some time or spotting in between periods till your body adjusts to the birth control
  • Nausea
  • Blood clots or visible lesions depending on the birth control
  • Higher or lower blood pressure
  • Irregular weight gain or weight loss
  • Changes in vaginal discharge
  • Irritation or itchiness on the skin
  • UTIs and other infections, odors, or irritation

Side effects are usually temporary and will subside once your hormones adapt to the birth control. Also, most times, the side effects are mild and unnoticed.

If your side effects persist, disrupt your lifestyle, or pose serious harm to your health, consult your physician immediately. 

Your physician may change your dosage or advise you to switch your method of birth control completely.

Sometimes you may need to adjust your lifestyle or try a different brand of the same birth control type for it to work best for your body. 

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Preventing Pregnancy 

There is no form of birth control that is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy aside from abstinence.

To increase the chances of your birth control working, follow your physician’s advice, do your research and use each birth control method accurately.

If you are taking a birth control pill, make sure that you stick to the schedule laid out for you and abstain from sexual intercourse if you forget to take it. 

Practicing safe sex not only prevents pregnancy but also keeps STIs and STDs at bay.

Be responsible and always take part in sex that is consensual and protected.

Both partners should take an active approach to having safe sex.

Reach out to a trusted healthcare professional if you have any concerns about unsafe or unprotected sex.

If you are not on birth control or suspect it will not work effectively, you may consider taking emergency contraceptives to prevent pregnancy.

These are also called the ‘morning after’ pills and should be taken soon after unprotected sex.

Depending on the brand and type of pill, the time frame to take the pills after sex is usually up to 120 hours.

Always consult a physician or a trusted healthcare provider before taking emergency contraceptives as a backup form of birth control. 

How K Health Can Help

Do you have more questions about birth control and its effect? Or do you just need someone to talk to about your birth control choices? Just about anyone can get access affordable primary care with the K Health app.

Download K Health to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a provider in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for birth control to kick in?
Some forms of birth control, such as implants, condoms, and IUDs, start working as soon as they are inserted or worn. Others like the birth control pill may take seven days or more to kick in.
How long after starting birth control can you stop using condoms?
It is advisable to wait at least seven days for the birth control pill to take effect on your body’s hormones. Some people choose to wear condoms even when on birth control pills for added protection and to increase the chances of pregnancy prevention. Birth control methods do not prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), aside from condoms.
Why does birth control take 7 days to work?
It can take several days and sometimes a week or more for your body’s hormones to regulate and adjust to the changes caused by the use of birth control methods like the birth control pill. Your body needs time to get used to these added hormones, so we suggest using barrier methods like condoms as added protection during that early usage stage.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Robynn Lowe

Robynn Lowe is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years in the medical field. Robynn received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Florida Atlantic University and has been practicing in rural family medicine since. Robynn is married to her college sweetheart, Raymond and they have three awesome children. When Robynn isn't with patients you can find her shopping, coaching her kids sports teams, or spending time on the water.