Switching Birth Control Pills

How to Change to a New Pill Brand to Hormonal Birth Control Method

Switching Birth Control Pills
Switching Birth Control Pills. Photo © Dawn Stacey

Thinking About Switching Birth Control Pills?

Switching to a new birth control pill brand is super simple to do. There are really just a few steps that you need to follow. But, before I give you the instructions, there are a few things you need to know first:

  • The following information is only meant for women who are currently using the pill.
  • If possible, speak with your doctor and buy your new pill back sometime early in the cycle of your current pill pack (like during Weeks 1 or 2). This way, you'll be ready to switch by the end of your current pill cycle.
  • Finally, these are general guidelines -- you should ALWAYS read the entire information packet that comes with your new pill pack and follow the start instructions provided there.

What You Will Need When Switching Birth Control Pills:

  • A prescription for a new pill brand.
  • A pack of birth control pills.

Seems simple enough -- right?

Before Switching Birth Control Pills

Before you switch pills, you need to decide which pill brand you want to change to. You should talk to your doctor about your pill options. Why are you not happy with your current brand? Explain what you like and don't like about your current pill. Are you looking for a pill with certain non-contraceptive benefits? Maybe you want the convenience of an extended cycle pill? Are there side effects that you may want to minimize? You may want to switch from a combination pill to a progestin-only one. Or, perhaps you may want to switch to a different hormonal birth control option altogether.

Yikes! That's a lot to think about. But, don't worry -- that's what your doctor is there for. Figuring out what pill you will be switching to is probably the hardest part of this whole process. Once you have made a decision, the rest is very easy. So, you leave your doctor's office with your new pill prescription in hand.

Now what?

Okay -- here we go...

Instructions for Switching to a New Pill Brand:

  1. Take your new pill prescription to the pharmacy to have it filled.
  2. Finish your entire old pill pack (including the Week 4 placebo pills). Do not stop your current pill and switch to your new pill during the middle of your cycle. Doing this may cause spotting or breakthrough bleeding, headaches, nausea or other symptoms. It may also make the pill less effective.
  3. When you come to what would have been Week 1, Day 1 of your old pill brand, start your new pill pack. If you do this, you should have automatic pregnancy protection and do not need to use a back-up birth control method. Just to be sure though, check the package insert (that comes with your new pill prescription) to double-check if you should be using a back-up method for the first 7 days.
  4. Your body may need to adjust to the new type, level, and/or dose of hormones in your new pill. So, be prepared that you may experience some side effects. Give your new pill brand at least three months for these side effects to go away before deciding if you want to stop using this new brand.

    That's all there is to it! See... I told you that switching birth control pills was super easy. But what if you decided to switch pill types? Or, (oh no) what if you are not even switching from the pill at all? That's okay. I still have you covered.

    Switching to Birth Control Pills From...

    • Switching from Combination Pills to the Mini-Pill (progestin-only pill):
      1. If you want to have immediate pregnancy protection (and not need to use back-up contraception), take the first pill in your new mini-pill pack the day after you take your last active combination pill (end of Week 3).
      2. Do not take Week 4's placebo pills of your old pill brand. Just start your new pill during that week instead.
    • Switching from the Mini-Pill to the Combo Pill:

      1. Take the first active (hormone) pill of your new pill pack on the day that your withdrawal period starts.
      2. Throw out any of the remaining pills in your old pill pack and just continue with your new pill pack.
      3. This should provide you with immediate protection.
      4. OR... instead of starting on the day of your period, some women prefer to wait and start their new pill pack on Sunday (because most pill packs are labeled with Sunday as the start day). You can wait until Sunday to start your new pill brand. But if more than 7 days have passed since you took your last active mini-pill, then you should use a back-up method for the first 7 days of your new pill back to avoid getting pregnant.

    NuvaRing and the Pill:

    • Switching from NuvaRing TO the Pill:
      1. Remove your NuvaRing after 3 weeks of use.
      2. During Week 4, take the first pill of your new pack using either a Sunday Start or a Day 1 Start -- whichever comes first (for more on this, see the instructions that come with your pill pack).
      3. If you choose a Sunday Start, use a backup method of contraception for 7 days.
      4. You may not have a period this month, but this is totally normal.
    • Switching to NuvaRing (from the Pill):
      1. You can insert the NuvaRing at anytime during your combination pill pack (if you want to start it right away). But the latest day you that can wait to insert your NuvaRing is the day after taking your last placebo pill (Week 4, Day 7). So basically, you would just insert the NuvaRing on what would have been Week 1, Day 1 of your old pill pack.
      2. Throw away any remaining pills.
      3. No back-up method is needed.
      4. If you are switching from the mini-pill, you can start NuvaRing on any day, but you will need to use a back-up method for the first 7 days of using NuvaRing.

    The Patch and the Pill:

    • Switching from the Patch TO the Pill:

      1. Wait until you finish using the third patch of your cycle.
      2. In Week 4, take your first pill using either a Sunday Start or a Day 1 Start (see instruction pamphlet for more on this).
      3. If you choose a Sunday Start, use a backup method of contraception for 7 days.
    • Switching to the Patch (from the Pill):
      1. Wait until you get your period.
      2. Then, choose either the Day 1 Start (applying the patch on the first day of your period) or Sunday Start (apply patch on the first Sunday after your period starts) and apply your first patch (see the instructions in the information leaflet that comes with the patch for more detailed information).
      3. You will need to use backup birth control for the first 7 days after switching to the patch.

    Depo Provera and the Pill:

    • Switching from Depo Provera TO the Pill: To have continuous pregnancy protection, begin your new pill on the day your next Depo Provera injection is scheduled or anytime before.

    • Switching to Depo Provera (from the Pill):
      1. You may have your first Depo injection at any time during your current pill pack.
      2. After you get your Depo injection, continue taking your pills until you are done with the whole pack.


    Wu WJ, Edelman A. "Contraceptive method initiation: Using the Centers for Disease Control and prevention selected practice guidelines." Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America. 2015; 42(4):659-67. Accessed via private subscription.

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