What To Know When Switching Birth Control Methods

For “16 and Pregnant“‘s Devon and her boyfriend, Colin, using birth control was a no-brainer. She’d witnessed her sister Jane become a teen mom and knew firsthand how hard it was–and still is–to raise a child before you’re ready. Devon was careful about taking her pill, and once she switched to the Nuvaring, she was careful to use it correctly. Which would explain her surprise when she found out she was five months pregnant.

Devon likely became pregnant during a “gap” in her birth control methods, meaning there was a window of time in between the coverage from her pill and the coverage from her ring that left her unprotected. This can happen when you switch from a more effective method to a less effective method, or if you start a new method and have unprotected sex before the new method has become effective. While some methods of birth control are effective immediately, others, like the shot or implant, can take a few days. When switching to the pill, it can take up to a full menstrual cycle to reach its peak effectiveness. During those gap periods, it’s important to use a backup barrier method, such as a condom, or have emergency contraception on hand, just in case. Approximately 14 percent of women have experienced at least a month long gap of birth control coverage, leaving them at risk for unplanned pregnancy.

If you’re thinking of starting a method or switching your method, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about your options, as well as how to maximize their effectiveness. And for more information, check out bedsider.org.

–Written by Lauren Mann of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy

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