Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2011;83(5):575-576

See related article on preventing gaps when switching contraceptives.

What is the best way to switch from one birth control method to another?

It is important to go straight from one birth control method to the next, with no gaps in between. This will help lower your chance of getting pregnant.

If you take birth control pills, you do not need to finish the pill pack before switching to another method. You can stop taking your pill at any point in the pack. If you are switching to pills from another method, you should start by taking the first pill in the pack. These rules also apply to switching from one kind of pill to another kind of pill.

You may have changes in your period after switching birth control methods. This is normal. Do not wait for your period before you stop the old method or start the new one.

When do I need to overlap birth control methods?

In some cases, you should have a few days of overlap. This means starting the new method before stopping the old method. This gives the new method time to start working before the old one wears off. The table shows which methods should overlap and how long the overlap should be. The overlap length appears in bold print.

Switching to:
Switching from:PillPatchRingDepo (progestin)shotProgestin implantProgestin IUDCopper IUD
PillNo gap: take first pill of new pack the day after taking any pill in old packStart patch one day before stopping pillNo gap: insert ring the day after taking any pill in packGet first shot seven days before stopping pillInsert implant four days before stopping pillInsert progestin IUD seven days before stopping pillCan insert copper IUD up to five days after stopping pill
PatchStart pill one day before removing patchNo gap: insert ring and remove patch on the same dayGet first shot seven days before removing patchInsert implant four days before removing patchInsert progestin IUD seven days before removing patchCan insert copper IUD up to five days after removing patch
RingStart pill one day before removing ringStart patch two days before removing ringGet first shot seven days before removing ringInsert implant four days before removing ringInsert progestin IUD seven days before removing ringCan insert copper IUD up to five days after removing ring
Depo (progestin) shotCan take first pill up to 15 weeks after the last shotCan start patch up to 15 weeks after the last shotCan insert ring up to 15 weeks after the last shotCan insert implant up to 15 weeks after the last shotCan insert progestin IUD up to 15 weeks after the last shotCan insert copper IUD up to 16 weeks after the last shot
Progestin implantStart pill seven days before removing implantStart patch seven days before removing implantStart ring seven days before removing implantGet first shot seven days before removing implantInsert progestin IUD seven days before removing implantCan insert copper IUD up to five days after removing implant
Progestin IUDStart pill seven days before removing IUDStart patch seven days before removing IUDStart ring seven days before removing IUDGet first shot seven days before removing IUDInsert implant four days before removing IUDCan insert copper IUD right after removing progestin IUD
Copper IUDStart pill seven days before removing IUDStart patch seven days before removing IUDStart ring seven days before removing IUDGet first shot seven days before removing IUDInsert implant four days before removing IUDInsert progestin IUD right after removing copper IUD and use backup method for seven days

When do I need a backup method?

If you do not want to overlap the old method and the new method, you can use a backup method instead. Backup methods include condoms and spermicide. For example, if you do not want to keep taking the pill after you get your first progestin shot, you can use condoms instead. You should use the backup method for the same number of days listed in bold print in the table.

If you do not want to use a backup method, you should avoid having sex for the same number of days listed in bold print in the table.

To prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted infections, always use condoms when you have sex.

Continue Reading


More in AFP

More in Pubmed

Copyright © 2011 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See permissions for copyright questions and/or permission requests.