Oral Contraception Use

Oral contraceptives (OCs) are medicines taken to prevent pregnancy. OCs work by preventing the ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones in OCs also cause the cervical mucus to thicken, preventing the sperm from entering the uterus. The hormones also cause the uterine lining to become thin, not allowing a fertilized egg to attach to the inside of the uterus. OCs are highly effective when taken exactly as prescribed. However, OCs do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Safe sex practices, such as using condoms along with an OC, can help prevent STDs.

Before taking OCs, you may have a physical exam and Pap test. Your caregiver may also order blood tests if necessary. Your caregiver will make sure you are a good candidate for oral contraception. Discuss with your caregiver the possible side effects of the OC you may be prescribed. When starting an OC, it can take 2 to 3 months for the body to adjust to the changes in hormone levels in your body.


Your caregiver may advise you on how to start taking the first cycle of OCs. Otherwise, you can:

  • Start on day 1 of your menstrual period. You will not need any backup contraceptive protection with this start time.

  • Start on the first Sunday after your menstrual period or the day you get your prescription. In these cases, you will need to use backup contraceptive protection for the first 7-day cycle.

After you have started taking OCs:

  • If you forget to take 1 pill, take it as soon as you remember. Take the next pill at the regular time.

  • If you miss 2 or more pills, use backup birth control until your next menstrual period starts.

  • If you use a 28-day pack that contains inactive pills and you miss 1 of the last 7 pills (pills with no hormones), it will not matter. Throw away the rest of the non-hormone pills and start a new pill pack.

No matter which day you start the OC, you will always start a new pack on that same day of the week. Have an extra pack of OCs and a backup contraceptive method available in case you miss some pills or lose your OC pack.


  • Do not smoke.

  • Always use a condom to protect against STDs. OCs do not protect against STDs.

  • Use a calendar to mark your menstrual period days.

  • Read the information and directions that come with your OC. Talk to your caregiver if you have questions.


  • You develop nausea and vomiting.

  • You have abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding.

  • You develop a rash.

  • You miss your menstrual period.

  • You are losing your hair.

  • You need treatment for mood swings or depression.

  • You get dizzy when taking the OC.

  • You develop acne from taking the OC.

  • You become pregnant.


  • You develop chest pain.

  • You develop shortness of breath.

  • You have an uncontrolled or severe headache.

  • You develop numbness or slurred speech.

  • You develop visual problems.

  • You develop pain, redness, and swelling in the legs.