How Long Does Birth Control Take?

Most monthly contraceptive prescriptions take effect after a week or more.
Most monthly contraceptive prescriptions take effect after a week or more.

According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), birth control or contraception is a term used for the five different methods people use to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Of these methods, only hormonal contraceptives do not interfere with the natural act of sexual intercourse. Although some of these hormonal contraceptives begin to take effect immediately after treatment, some methods require a period of time to take effect. If you're thinking about speaking with your doctor about any hormonal contraceptive, it's important to know when you'll be ready to safely enjoy your love life again.

Oral Contraceptives

Oral contraception, more commonly known as "the pill," use synthetic hormones to either prevent the menstrual cycle, producing thicker cervical mucus to discourage the entrance of sperm, or thin the uterine lining to discourage the implantation of a fertilized egg. Some medications combine these effects for more effective contraceptive. The APA recommends daily ingestion of your prescribed oral contraceptive pill at the same scheduled time each day. According to, it's especially important to take progesterone-only pills at the same time every day due to hormonal risks.

Most oral contraceptive prescriptions contain 28 pills: 21 pharmaceutical medications and seven placebos. Placebos are taken during a down-time in the menstrual cycle that doesn't require medication. After beginning the active medication, the birth control pill will begin to take effect after seven consistent days of taking the pill. Until that time, it's suggested that the woman also use a barrier form of contraception, such as a condom, with her partner.


Depo-Provera is an prescription injection containing depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) or progestin. DMPA is a synthetic hormonal treatment that prevents ovulation, thickens cervical mucus and reduces the fertilized egg's ability to implant itself on the uterine lining. After you've been injected with Depo-Provera, the medication will take effect after 24 hours. After that time, you will not need to receive medication for 11 to 13 weeks. It is recommended that you schedule your next shot a few weeks before the medication wears off, in case of a need to reschedule your appointment.


Lunelle is another prescription injection that contains synthetic forms of both progestin and estrogen. Lunelle must be given to a woman during the first five days of her period, but as soon as the treatment has been administered, the female is protected against unwanted pregnancies. Lunelle requires regularly scheduled applications of the treatment every month. However, women taking Lunelle can regain their fertility faster after ending the treatment than women who have been taking Depo-Provera.


The NuvaRing and other similarly ring-shaped contraceptives are vaginal rings inserted manually inside of the female and allowed to sit for three weeks. As the NuvaRing rests inside of the vagina, it releases low doses of synthetic hormones that interact with the ovaries to prevent ovulation and fertilization. The NuvaRing is removed during the fourth week of the cycle, when the woman has her period. Much like other non-injectable forms of hormonal contraceptive, the NuvaRing will be able to stop an unwanted pregnancy from occurring after seven days of use.

Birth-Control Patch

The birth-control patch performs the same jobs as birth-control pills and other hormonal contraceptives. It prevents ovulation, thickens vaginal mucus and prevents uterine implantation. Birth-control patches are prescribed monthly and consist of three separate patches. The first patch should be applied during the first week of a woman's menstrual cycle; during this time, a woman should use another form of contraceptive during intercourse. After seven days, the second patch is applied, which is replaced by a third patch after another seven days. After the third patch has been applied for seven days, the patch is removed and treatment is stopped for a week to allow menstrual flow to occur. The birth control patch should be applied to either the buttocks, abdomen, upper arm or upper torso areas.

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