Can You Change The Time You Take Your Birth Control Pills?

In order for birth control pills to be most effective, they should be taken at the same time every day, according to Healthline. Whether you take them in the morning, evening, or anywhere in between, it's important to take them around the same time. But what if that time doesn't work for you anymore, and you want to change the time you take them?

How you change your birth control pill timing depends on the type of pill you're taking. There are generally two kinds of pills: combination pills and progestin-only pills (via Mayo Clinic). There are lots of options when it comes to combination pills, which contain both estrogen and progestin. Different brands of combination pills will have varying dosages of hormones and different blends of active and inactive pills, depending on your needs. For example, you might take a combination pill that has more active pills and only results in a period every few months.

The progestin-only pill, also known as the minipill, doesn't include estrogen and has a lower dose of progestin than that of the combination pill. There aren't as many choices when it comes to the minipill, since all the pills are active and contain the same amount of progestin.

How to adjust your timing

One of the reasons it's recommended to take the pill at the same time every day is to maintain the habit, minimizing any chance of missing a dose and making it less effective, according to Planned Parenthood. But sometimes your schedule might change or your timing just might not work for you anymore, and you'll need to shift to a different time of day.

If you're taking a combination pill, you have a lot of wiggle room here (via Healthline). This pill can be taken any time within a 24 hour window. So if you normally take your pill at 8:00 a.m. and want to shift it to 7 a.m., you can just take it at your new time the next morning. But if you wanted to do a bigger shift, like from morning to bedtime, then Healthline suggests taking the pill twice that day, so you don't go longer than 24 hours without it.

The minipill is a bit trickier, since it has a shorter window of time. If you take it outside of a three-hour window, it counts as a missed pill, so you may need to make some small adjustments before you get to your desired timing change. For example, if you normally take it at 7:00 a.m. and want to shift to 9:00 p.m., you'd need to take it up to three hours later each day until you get to 9:00 p.m.

Why it's important to practice caution

If you're unsure, it's recommended to err on the side of shifting your pill forward, instead of delaying it (via Healthline). If you think you've missed your window, use a backup contraceptive like condoms for seven days after missing a combination pill and for two days after missing a minipill dose. This is important for preventing pregnancy. You might also experience some temporary side effects of this shift, like spotting or irregular bleeding. However, this should go away once you get into your new pill schedule.

Planned Parenthood has an online tool for figuring out what to do if things don't go to plan and you miss a pill. It will ask you some questions about your demographics, when you missed your dose, which pill you're taking, when you last took your pill, and when you started your latest pill pack. Your results will help you understand when to take your next pill, how many to take, and if you need emergency contraception for preventing pregnancy.