What to do when your birth control delivery is late

You did everything right—you had your telehealth visit, you considered all your birth control options, and you ordered one for delivery to your door. There’s just one problem: your delivery is late. We know that when you don’t have the birth control you’re relying on, it can be incredibly stressful. So here are five things to keep in mind if your birth control delivery is delayed:

1. You have options

Even if you already ordered the pill, the patch, the ring, or the shot in the mail and your delivery is delayed, you can still get over-the-counter methods of birth control, like condoms and spermicide, to use while you wait. These methods are available right on the pharmacy shelves, and you don’t have to talk to a provider to get them. And if you don’t want to go to the store or pharmacy to get those methods, you can use the pull out method or skip the penis-in-vagina sex and be intimate in other ways until you have your birth control.

We know having to go pick up a prescription at a brick-and-mortar pharmacy defeats the purpose of getting your birth control delivered to your door, but these are desperate times! So, if you have a local provider, give them a call or send them a message to see if they can send a prescription to a local pharmacy for pick up today so that you are covered until your birth control delivery arrives.

2. Start it right away when it arrives, but know you may not be protected right away

We recommend starting your birth control when it arrives (you don’t need to wait for a Sunday or your next period), but depending on what method you’re using and how long you’ve gone without it, you might not be protected right away when you start your birth control. If you’re taking the pill, the patch, or the ring, and you miss one day or more, you’ll need to use a back-up method of birth control, like condoms or internal condoms, for the first seven days.

If you didn’t realize you needed back-up or if using your back-up method didn’t quite go according to plan, you can use emergency contraception to decrease your chance of getting pregnant after unprotected sex. Emergency contraception is available at pharmacies and clinics. It’s most effective the sooner you take it, so consider getting some now to keep on hand in case you ever need it—it’s not something you want to wait around for when you do.

3. Do a temperature check

Birth control should be stored at room temperature (59 to 86 degrees). But the rules for storing the NuvaRing are a little bit stricter than they are for other birth control methods. (FYI these stricter rules don’t apply to Annovera, the yearly ring.) If you ordered the NuvaRing delivered to your door, consider the temperature where your package is being delivered. The NuvaRing is activated by body heat, so it is temperature sensitive. It’s good for four months out of the refrigerator and is still effective when briefly exposed to temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit. So it’s a good idea to make sure that the package with your NuvaRing in it isn’t sitting outside all day in the middle of a heatwave. If you’re concerned about the conditions during shipping, contact the telehealth company you used to ask them how they ensure the safety of the ring.

4. Consider methods that don’t rely on shipping

Getting birth control delivered to you is really convenient, but we are living in the upside down, and you might want to consider how much you want to rely on shippers to get you your birth control. Given that we’re also in a pandemic, which may be why you used telehealth in the first place, you may need an option that either doesn’t involve seeing a provider at all, or that lasts a long time so you don’t need refills.

You never need to see a provider to get some methods of birth control, like condoms, the pull out method, and spermicide. Other methods, like an IUD or implant, or like Annovera, the yearly ring, let you skip getting refills, which means no worrying about shipping delays. To learn more about other methods of birth control, check out our Method Explorer. In the end, you may decide to keep using your current method or switch to a new method—both of these options are totally okay!

5. Get your refills early

Some companies have the option to set up refills to be delivered automatically. And if they can anticipate shipping delays, they can send your birth control refill out early to avoid a delivery delay. If you’re not using automatic refills, make sure you order your refills before you actually run out. So, set a calendar alert when it’s time to order your refill.

So if you are hitting refresh on your tracking and see that your birth control delivery is delayed, don’t panic! You have options for birth control right now and there are things you can do to avoid this situation in the future.

Written by Robin Watkins, CNM, WHNP-BC

Robin Watkins is the Senior Director, Health Care at Power to Decide. Robin is a midwife and women’s health nurse practitioner focused on helping other providers learn how to offer high-quality sexual and reproductive health care. Robin provides clinical care at a community health center in Washington, DC. When she is not talking sex, placing IUDs, or asking One Key Question, you can find her riding her bike on the streets of DC or eating ice cream for dinner.

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