Be Careful—15 Surprising Birth Control Mistakes You Might Be Making

Birth control is up to 99.9 percent effective, but it relies on you to make it work. Are you sure you’re not making any of these mistakes that could cause you to get pregnant?

  1. You’re not consistent. You already know you have to take your pill at the same time every day (even though it’s a nuisance), but did you know this is even more important if you’re on a progestin-only pill? If it’s not taken within the same three-hour window every day, it ups your chances of getting pregnant.
  2. You don’t consult with your doc. Your contraceptives can affect your health by putting you at risk of blood clots, especially if you have high blood pressure or suffer from migraines with aura. It’s a good idea to check in with your doc regularly to be sure you’re okay and get your blood pressure tested.
  3. Your meds are causing a problem. There are quite a few meds that can prevent contraceptives from working properly, such as St. John’s wort, seizure meds, yeast infection medication, and antibiotics. The best thing is to check with your doctor whenever you’re prescribed something new, especially since meds not only affect the birth control pill but the patch and vaginal ring too.
  4. You’re not storing it properly. How you store your birth control varies according to the type you’re using. Birth control pills should be stored wherever you’re most likely to remember to take them, such as in the bathroom. Vagina rings such as the NuvaRing should be stored in the fridge—yes, really. This is because the low temp will enable it to last until its expiration date. Condoms, on the other hand, should be stored in cool, dry places out of direct sunlight, so be careful if you have some in your purse.
  5. You’re wearing lipstick during sex. You probably know that you should use water-based lubes on condoms and avoid oil-based ones, but make sure your lipstick isn’t getting in the way of condom effectiveness. Yes, really! Since lipstick contains oils, if you’re wearing it while going down on a man who’s wearing a condom, you could be weakening the latex, making it more prone to breakage.
  6. You remove your contraceptive sponge too early. Contraceptive sponges need to be left inside for at least six hours after you’ve had sex (but make sure you remove them within 30 hours). As for diaphragms, keep them inside for up to eight hours after sex but remove them within 24 hours.
  7. You smoke. Smoking might not make your birth control less effective, but it can harm your health. If you smoke, you increase your risk of getting blood clots and strokes, so maybe it’s time to quit the nasty habit, huh?
  8. You’re confused about what to do when you miss a pill. It’s important not to miss a birth control pill, but what happens if you do? There’s a lot of confusion about this, but try to take the missed pill when you remember, then the next day’s pill as usual. Always use condoms as backups during this time!
  9. You’re sick. If you’ve got a nasty case of vomiting or diarrhea that’s lasting longer than 24 hours, it could prevent the pill from being absorbed properly. Don’t have unprotected sex during this time.
  10. You’re compromising the patch. The contraceptive patch needs to be placed on a clean area of skin that doesn’t have any makeup, lotion or sunscreen on it. This helps it to stick better so that it can release its hormones properly.
  11. You forget about your IUD. You might think the IUD is fantastic because it gets inserted and you can forget about it, right? You really shouldn’t. You should be feeling for it regularly to make sure that its threads are properly in place.
  12. You’re clumsy with the contraceptive sponge. Be careful when inserting your birth control sponge. You should treat it like a condom by not nicking or tearing it with your nails or jewelry. Even tiny tears can increase and cause problems once they’re inserted and during sex.
  13. You’re using activated charcoal. Activated charcoal has become a huge trend and is used for various things, such as cleaning your teeth or detoxing your body. But it can actually get in the way of your birth control pill, as well as over 200 other drugs! That’s not the type of detox you want.
  14. You’re re-using condoms. This is just gross, but it happens. A study found that between 1.4 and 3.3 percent of people re-use a condom at least twice during sex. An example would be keeping the same condom on when you change sexual positions. This is bad because it can make the condom less effective—remember, pre-cum is probably getting in there! Plus, if you’re shifting between vaginal and butt sex, it can put you at risk of infections by transferring germs.
  15. You rely on pulling outThis is not a birth control method, period. There’s no guarantee that pulling out will prevent pregnancies every time, even if the guy is pretty good with timing when to pull out. Still not convinced? Pulling out offers no protecting against STDs or HIV, so you might not fall pregnant but you could put yourself at risk of nasty diseases. Rather choose to stick to your trusty condoms.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.