How To Change Birth Control Timing
Our pharmacist answers the latest question regarding possible ways to change the time you take your birth control.
Right now I take my birth control at the same time everyday late at night. I would like to start taking them earlier in the day. How do I make that transition with minimum risk to it's overall effectiveness. Could I gradually start taking them earlier and earlier? Would that work? If so how gradual should I make it? Thank you for your time and help in this! I really appreciate it.
This is an excellent question and we will actually be updating our birth control guide on our website with new information. We can't believe we forgot this!
There is no set in stone method as to how to switch the time you take your birth control. Having said that, there certainly are a few recommended ways. The easiest way that should really have no negative consequences is to simply change the time you take the medication once you start a new pack. If you are not taking birth control continuously (i.e. no placebo or pill free period), this is the best method. One you are finished with your pill free period, simply start the new pack at your new time. You should not have any spotting/break-through bleeding and there will be no decrease in effectiveness.
Another method is to simply just start taking your pills earlier. Problems only typically arise if people want to move their dosing time to later in the day as opposed to earlier since you would go going without a dose for longer than intended. Moving it earlier in the day as you stated in your question, is much safer and should have minimal to no side effects. If anything, you may feel slightly nauseous but aside from that, there will be no decrease in effectiveness and there should be no issues with spotting. This method works best if you are taking a combined oral contraceptive which contains both an estrogen and progestin. These birth controls are the most common.
It generally is not recommended to use the above method if you are taking a progestin only tablet, which is not that common. Progestin only tablets only come as norethindrone 0.35mg and go by the brand name of either Nor-QD or Errin. Progestin only tablets have much less of a buffer zone in terms of what time you should take the tablet. They really need to be taken consistently at the same time to maintain effectiveness. Again, this type of birth control is not that common.
The third method is to slowly change the time daily by about 30 minutes. This is my least recommended way since it could cause spotting and a POSSIBLE decrease in effectiveness. I only recommend this process if you are on a progestin only tablet continuously since you need to be very wary of timing. I would only change the daily timing by about 30 minutes to minimize spotting.
So to summarize, my first recommendation would be to simply change the time of dosing after you finish one pack and start another as long as you are going through that pill free period. If you take your birth control continuously, it is OK to change the dosing time to earlier if you are taking a combined oral contraceptive. If you are taking a progestin only tablet, slowly change the time of dosing over several days to weeks.
About the Pharmacist
Dr. Brian Staiger is a licensed pharmacist and the founder of PharmacistAnswers.com. He graduated from the University At Buffalo with a Doctor Of Pharmacy degree in 2010.