Wondering if the pill alone is enough to keep you from falling pregnant or if you should also use other forms of contraception? In this quick guide, we explore the success rate of the pill and answer your questions including:

  • How effective is the pill for birth control?
  • How effective is the pill when not taken correctly?
  • What is the most effective contraceptive pill?
  • How effective is the mini pill?
  • How long does it take for the pill to work?

How effective is the pill?

According to several reliable sources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Better Health Victoria and Planned Parenthood, the standard contraceptive pill is effective 99.7% of the time. This means less than 1 in 100 women will get pregnant when using the pill correctly.

But correctly is the key word here. This success rate drops slightly when accounting for human error (e.g. if you occasionally forget to take your pill or miss a day before picking up your next prescription).


How effective is the pill when not taken correctly?

The same sources above indicate that the success rate for typical use (rather than perfect use) drops to somewhere between 91% and 93%. However, this varies based on which pills you missed. For example, if the pill you missed is a sugar pill (i.e. during the ‘placebo week’ of your 28-day pack) rather than a hormonal one, the effectiveness should remain as high as usual.

Even if you miss a hormonal pill, if you’ve caught the mistake within 48 hours, you can typically catch up and keep the chances of falling pregnant extremely low. The CDC suggests you won’t need to consider emergency contraception in most cases like this. However, if you have missed consecutive hormonal pills during the first week of a pack and had sex in the prior 5 days, you may wish to consider emergency contraception (i.e. the morning after pill).


What is the most effective contraceptive pill?

The most common pill, known as a ‘combined pill’ (contains both progestogen and oestrogen), is also the most effective. However, if you are breastfeeding or have difficulty taking oestrogen, your doctor may prescribe the ‘mini pill’ (progestogen only) instead. In some situations, the mini pill can be slightly less reliable than the combined pill when it comes to preventing pregnancy.


How effective is the mini pill?

If you follow the instructions perfectly, the mini pill is equally as effective as the combined pill. However, you don’t just need to remember the mini pill every day – you must take it in the same 3-hour window each day. If you take it late, you’ll need to use another form of contraception for the next 48 hours.

How long does it take for birth control to work?

According to Medical News Today, you should usually allow for 7 days between starting the combined pill and having sex without another form of contraception. However, if you begin taking the pill within 5 days of your period starting, it should take effect right away. For the mini pill, you only need to wait 2 days for the contraception to become effective.

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