When Should You Take Your Birth Control?

Although I stopped taking hormonal birth control a few months back, I understand why so many women rely on the pill. When taken correctly, birth control pills are 99.9 percent effective at preventing unplanned pregnancy. On top of that, hormonal birth control pills can significantly decrease the pain and general horribleness of menstruating for many women.

That said, birth control pills can be tricky, especially when it comes to planning out when to take them. In my experience, it can be really difficult to know when you should be taking your birth control — should you take it when you first get up, or wait until lunch or the evening? Even after you have that part figured out, though, managing to take your birth control at the same time daily is way harder than it seems. At least, it was for me.

And yet, that part is incredibly important: if you take the pill, I'm sure you've already been told by your doctor and others that it's crucial to take your birth control at the same time every day. (Especially if you're on the mini pill.) But what you might not know is, while it is important to take your pill at the same time each day, there really is no one "perfect" time to take birth control that makes it most effective. Rather, the most effective time to take birth control really just depends on your schedule. So whether you choose to take the pill in the morning or at night doesn't really matter — as long as you're consistent about it.

Regardless of your schedule, here's five simple ways to know when you should plan on taking birth control to ensure maximum effectiveness.

1. When You Know You'll Be Awake

I know a lot of women who take their birth control when they're getting ready for work in the morning. In a way, this seems perfect, because you get your pill out of the way first thing. But this method never would have worked for me, personally, because I don't wake up at the same time every day.

Obviously, you know yourself way better than I do. Maybe you get up right at six a.m. whether it's workday or not. (If that's the case, may I congratulate you on having your sh*t super together? Well done, you!) If you tend to sleep in on your days off, though, planning on taking your birth control when you would normally be waking up for work becomes tricky. The risk is just too high that, when the weekend rolls around, you'll keep on sleeping rather than getting out from under your cozy bedding to take your pill.

Instead, if you know that your wake-up times vary, plan to take your birth control when you know without a doubt you'll be awake every single day. For me, this time was five p.m., but any time of day or night will work — just be consistent. And be awake.

2. Whenever Your Phone Tells You To

Once you decide what time of day (or night) will be most convenient for you to take your birth control, set a birth control alarm on your phone. Then, no matter what you're up to, drop everything and take your pill when that alarm goes off. When I was taking hormonal birth control, the "no babies!" alarm on my iPhone was the only reason I managed to take my birth control at even remotely the same time every day. You can also learn how to set up birth control text message reminders for yourself, if you think that will work better for you.

3. When You're Least Likely To Be Commuting

OK, so sometimes life gives us opportunities to be spontaneous and do cool things outside of our apartments. This means, no matter when and/or where you plan to take your birth control pills, you should probably be prepared to take them from anywhere. So feel free to toss your pack in your purse before you head out for the day. But avoid scheduling your birth control dosage around the time you know you'll be waiting for the subway or driving home from a long day. If you're home when your birth control alarm goes off, the chances are far better that you won't be in the middle of something and accidentally forget to take your pill altogether. Which brings us to...

4. When You Think You'll Be The Least Distracted

Again, I don't know your schedule. If you're a mom, or a working student, or both, then it's quite likely that not being distracted or busy 24/7 is a foreign concept to you right now. Only you can really decide what time of the day you'll be the least distracted. That said, I would advise against setting your birth control alarm during your workday, because it's quite likely that you'll get caught up in a project, phone call, or meeting and then forget to take your pill. This is the same reason why I can't suggest taking your pill when you're rushing to get ready for work in the morning or when you're smack dab in the middle of your commute.

5. Before You Have Sex

As we've established, there is no perfect time to take your birth control pill; similarly, you're probably not having sex at the same time every day (or even every day). But when you're preparing to have sex, it's a great time to take a moment, and make sure that you took your pill for that day. Consider this less a way to plan your daily birth control regimen, and more a way to make extra sure that you don't forget to take it.

In the past, the times when I didn't take the pill prior to hooking up with my now-ex were always the times when I would either take it hours after I was supposed to, or I would forget to take it altogether. In fact, after a particularly energetic romp, it's not unlikely that you could end up falling asleep before taking your birth control. For me, post-sex cuddling was usually to blame for my forgetfulness. Regardless of your post-sex routine, however, it's probably ideal that you make a point of taking your birth control before having sex — so you can focus on the moment, instead of focusing on trying to remember to take your pill when you're done.

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