How to Switch Birth Control Pills Properly?

When it comes to birth control, the pill is often the favorite option for most women because they are both effective and easy to use. However, the variety in type and brands mean that, at some point, you may wish to switch from one to the other. Nevertheless, all pills have their own side effects and may have contraindications as well. For this reason, you will need to be careful when making the switch to avoid any complications that may arise. Before we get there, though, let’s consider why someone may need to switch their medication.

Why would you consider switching birth control pills?

There are two main types of birth control pills – the combination pill and the mini-pill. The combination pill contains both progestin and estrogen while the mini-pill has progestin only. Despite this difference, they both work in much the same way. The role of progestin is to thicken the cervical mucus layer, making it harder for sperm to reach the fallopian tubes and fertilize the egg. At the same time, it makes the lining of the uterine wall thinner so that a fertilized egg cannot latch on and develop.

Meanwhile, estrogen reduces the ovulation process, and without an egg, there can be no fertilization. Since the combination pill has both estrogen and progestin, it is much more effective at preventing pregnancy than the mini-pill. That does not mean the mini-pill is not effective, but that you need to be more vigilant with it because ovulation is still taking place.

That said one of the main reasons you may want to switch from one pill to the other is if you have a tendency to forget. For example, if you had been taking the mini-pill but often forget to take two pills consecutively then the effectiveness of the pill is reduced. On the other hand, the combination pill could still hold up even with a few missed doses because of the reduced rate of ovulation that provides a bit of a backup. Therefore, if you feel the mini-pill has been placing you at risk of pregnancy, the switch to a combination pill could be a good choice.

Another major reason to consider switching could be when you’re having some side-effects. Some birth control pills can cause effects such as breakthrough bleeding, acne, nausea, migraines, and bloating. In the case of breakthrough bleeding, this happens when you take the pill when the lining of the uterine wall was already building up. The progestin in the pill causes this lining to thin and there may be some subsequent bleeding.

Nausea and bloating are both caused by estrogen since it increases fluid retention throughout the body. Birth control pills are also supposed to reduce acne, but if it still persists, then you may need to switch to another type or brand because different brands have varying levels of hormones. Getting migraines is also a risk and one that should be an urgent reason to switch birth control pills since they can lead to a higher risk of blood clots and even stroke.

How do you safely switch from one pill to another?

If you have a genuine reason for making the change, then you should talk to your doctor about prescribing a different type of birth control pill or switching to a new brand. Regardless of the reason, you ought to be careful about how you make the switch because of the varying levels of hormones in the pills. All the same, there are several key guidelines to observe:

Complete the current pill pack before starting the other one

This is when you’re simply switching from one brand of birth control to another rather than moving between the combination pill to the mini-pill or vice versa. The general rule here is to finish your current pack of birth control pills, including the placebo pills in the fourth week. Then when it’s time to start a new pack thereafter, begin with the new brand of birth control pill. This way, you get to reduce any contraindications between the medication and also any possible side-effects.

Alternatively, you could simply jump from one brand to the next immediately if you’re really uncomfortable with the side-effects. Be warned, though, that there may be higher chances of getting some side-effects after the switch. Remember as we mentioned before, that different brands have varying levels of progestin and estrogen hormones. Nevertheless, there may be side-effects either way, even when you complete the current pack, so the key is to give your body time to adjust to the new medication. This may be up to three months before your body is fully adjusted.

Switching between the combination pill and mini-pill

When switching from either the combination pill to the mini-pill to the other type, the same rules as above apply. While it’s possible to switch immediately before completing your current pack, you may need a backup contraceptive in the time being. Also if it has been more than five days since you had your last menstrual period, you may want to abstain from sex or use another method of contraception.

Moving from monophasic to multiphasic pills and vice versa

Monophasic pills will have the same amount of hormones in the entire pack, while multiphasic pills will vary the levels of hormones as you’re taking the pill. When switching from one to the other, it is often recommended in these cases to complete the current pack first before starting with the other. Do not also forget to take the placebo pills so that your body can re-adjust the hormone levels.

What to remember about switching birth control pills

Ultimately, you should always consult your doctor before making any move from one pill to another. They will usually have more knowledge about the medications being sold and your personal medical history, which will equip a doctor with more knowledge. With that knowledge, they will be more suited to recommending the best option for you rather than hopping from one pill to the next. Besides, they have had more experience with women just like you and know which pills are best for avoiding particular side-effects. With their advice, you can avoid many of the side-effects you would otherwise get from trial and error.

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