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    Changing contraceptive pill

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      Two packets of contraceptive pills

      Thinking you’d like to switch your contraception? Lots of women change their birth control. But you have to be careful to switch correctly, so you can make sure you’re still protected from pregnancy. So, we’re here to help with a handy guide on switching between different types of contraception and hopefully help you make the transition smoothly.

      Why you might be thinking about changing birth control pills 

      You might be thinking about changing pills because you’ve had a reaction to the pill you’re on, for example: 

      Some women also experience hormonal changes which can impact their sex drive and mood, which might mean they’d like to try another type of contraception.

      You might find that actually you’ve not had a bad reaction to a pill at all, but you’re finding it hard to remember each day. This is also completely normal, and you might be better off trying the patch or ring, or even a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) like the implant.

      This article is about switching between combined contraceptives and progestogen only pills (mini pills). But if you’d like to find out more about LARCs, you can read our article about long-term hormonal contraception.

      Switching from one combined contraceptive to another combined contraceptive

      Combined contraceptives contain oestrogen and progestogen and can either be in the form of a pill like Rigevidon or Lucette, or they can also be a patch (Evra Patch) or a vaginal ring (NuvaRing).

      All combined contraceptives work in the same way. They stop your ovaries from releasing an egg, they thin the lining of the womb, making it harder for a fertilised egg to implant and they thicken the mucus in the cervix. This makes it hard for sperm to move through your cervix and reach an egg.

      When can I switch my pill?

      Because you’re switching to the same type of contraceptive, you might think it’s a straight switch. But depending which week you’re in of your pill, patch or ring, you might need to switch in different ways.*

      If you’re in week 2-3 of your pack or days 1-2 of the break: 

      • You can switch straight away to the new combined contraceptive 
      • You’ll be protected straight away 

      If you’re in week 1 or days 3-7 of the break and you didn’t have unprotected sex during the break

      • You can switch straight away to the new combined contraceptive 
      • You’ll need to use condoms or not have sex for the first seven days of the new combined contraceptive

      If you’re in week 1 or days 3-7 of the break and you had unprotected sex during the break

      • Wait until you’ve taken your current contraception for seven days in a row 
      • After those seven days you can switch to the new combined contraceptive 
      • You’ll be protected straight away

      Considering contraception?

      View our contraception options


      Switching from one mini pill to another mini pill 

      Mini pills only contain progestogen, that’s why they’re often called progestogen-only pills or POPs for short. Mini pills work by thickening the mucus in your cervix, making it hard for sperm to get to your womb. They also thin the lining of the womb, making it hard for a fertilised egg to implant.

      Some mini pills contain an artificial hormone called desogestrel. These mini pills also stop your ovaries releasing an egg.

      If you’re switching between two mini pills you can switch straight to your new mini pill*. You won’t need any additional contraception.

      Switching from a combined contraceptive to mini pill

      If you’re your changing birth control pills, patch or ring from a combined method to a mini pill, the way you switch depends on where you are in your cycle.*

      When can I switch from combined contraceptives to a mini pill?

      If you’re in week 2-3 of your pack or days 1-2 of the break

      • You can switch straight away to the new combined contraceptive 
      • You’ll be protected straight away

      If you’re in week 1 or days 3-7 of the break and you didn’t have unprotected sex during the break

      • You can switch straight away to the new combined contraceptive 
      • You’ll need to use condoms or not have sex for the first two days of the new combined contraceptive

      If you’re in week 1 or days 3-7 of the break and you had unprotected sex during the break: 

      • Wait until you’ve taken your current contraception for seven days in a row 
      • After those seven days you can switch to the new combined contraceptive 
      • You’ll be protected straight away

      Switching from a mini pill to combined contraceptive

      If you’re going from a mini pill to a combined pill, the patch or ring, you can change to your combined contraceptive straight away*.

      If you’re taking a mini pill which contains desogestrel you won’t need any extra contraception. If you’re taking a mini pill that doesn’t have desogestrel in you’ll need to not have sex or use condoms for the first seven days of the new contraception.

      Switching your pill with Online Doctor

      If you’re using our contraception service, please send us a message in your Patient Record if you’d like to switch your contraception.

      If you’re not using our service, but would like to change your contraception, it’s always a good idea to speak about it with your GP or a sexual health nurse. Or you can start a contraception consultation with us, and one of our clinicians will review your request, to make sure the new contraception is right for you.

      *This advice is based on you taking or using the contraception correctly leading up to the switch. If you’ve not been taking your contraception correctly, please speak to your GP or send us a message in your Patient Record, just to make sure you’re still protected against pregnancy when you change contraception.

      References

      https://www.sexwise.org.uk/contraception/combined-pill-coc
      https://www.sexwise.org.uk/contraception/progestogen-only-pill-pop
      https://www.fsrh.org/standards-and-guidance/fsrh-guidelines-and-statements/switching-or-starting-methods-of-contraception/
      https://pcwhf.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/fsrh-guidance-switching-or-starting-methods-of-contraception-august-2019-1.pdf  

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