Oral Contraception Use

Oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) are medicines taken to prevent pregnancy. OCPs work by preventing the ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones in OCPs 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. OCPs are highly effective when taken exactly as prescribed. However, OCPs do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Safe sex practices, such as using condoms along with an OCP, can help prevent STDs.

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


Your health care provider may advise you on how to start taking the first cycle of OCPs. 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 week.  

  • Start the pill at any time of your cycle. If you take the pill within 5 days of the start of your period, you are protected against pregnancy right away. In this case, you will not need a backup form of birth control. If you start at any other time of your menstrual cycle, you will need to use another form of birth control for 7 days. If your OCP is the type called a minipill, it will protect you from pregnancy after taking it for 2 days (48 hours).

After you have started taking OCPs:

  • 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, call your health care provider because different pills have different instructions for missed doses. 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 nonhormone pills and start a new pill pack.  

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


  • Do not smoke.  

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

  • Use a calendar to mark your menstrual period days.  

  • Read the information and directions that came with your OCP. Talk to your health care provider 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 OCP.  

  • You develop acne from taking the OCP.  

  • 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.