Birth Control Pills

Different Kinds of Birth Control Pills

There are several different types of birth control pills, and they can be categorized in a few different ways. One basic way to categorize them is by the hormone content (combined versus progestin-only). Birth control pills are also divided into types by the different "phases" in each pack (monophasic, biphasic, triphasic, or four-phasic). Some newer pills are classified as extended-cycle birth control pills, which reduce or eliminate the number of menstrual periods per year. Sometimes, they are categorized by the strength of the hormones (low-dose versus high-dose).
(Click Types of Birth Control Pills for more information.)

When and How to Use Birth Control Pills

General considerations for when and how to use birth control pills include the following:
  • Birth control pills come in tablet form. They are taken by mouth once a day.
  • You can take them with or without food. If the pills bother your stomach, try taking them with food.
  • It is important to take birth control pills every day and at the same time each day. Try to pick a time that will be easy to remember, such as at bedtime or breakfast. If you have trouble remembering, please talk with your healthcare provider, as missing pills increases your risk of pregnancy.
  • Make sure you know exactly what to do if you miss any pills. In some circumstances, you may need to use a backup method of contraception, such as condoms, for seven days. Each pack of birth control pills comes with a leaflet, describing in detail how to start the pills and what to do if you miss any. Because these instructions may be different for different kinds of birth control pills, make sure to follow the instructions for your specific kind.
  • Although birth control pills are usually quite effective when taken properly, taking them incorrectly greatly increases your risk of unintentional pregnancy.
(For more information on how to take your specific birth control pill, look up your pill by name on
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD
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