Birth control pills are a godsend for sexually active women who don’t want to get pregnant. In fact, they prevent pregnancy 99.7% of the time. How does the .3% fail rate happen? Most likely, one of these things is the culprit.
You don’t take it at the same time every day. The very premise of the Pill is that you have to take it at the same time on a daily basis. This is especially true when you’re on the 21-day pill as opposed to the 7-day placebo. Consistent timing is necessary to keep the correct balance of hormones to prevent pregnancy. While your timing doesn’t have to be down to the minute, making sure you take it within the same three-hour window works best. Set a daily alarm on your phone as a reminder.
You miss a pill at the start of your cycle. Forgetting to take your BC happens from time to time, and taking the missed dose as soon as you remember should keep you safe if you’re in the middle or at the end of your cycle. However, if it’s the first few days of the cycle, a missed dose leaves you with a greater chance of getting pregnant. The first week of the Pill after the placebos is essential to stop the egg from developing. If you miss a pill during this period, you’re not truly protected until the start of your next pack.
You don’t store your pills correctly. You should store medicines in cool and dry places for them to work correctly, and this is definitely the case for the Pill. Keep your BC away from humid, warm places if you want them to continue to be effective. A kitchen or bathroom cabinet should be fine, so long as the temperatures don’t get too extreme.
You have a chronic or sudden gastrointestinal issue. A chronic bout of diarrhea or vomiting means your Pill might not work as well. When you take your BC, it needs to stay in your digestive tract long enough to be assimilated into your bloodstream. Because of this, the Pill isn’t considered effective birth control for women suffering from chronic bowel issues like Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel syndrome. Any condition that hampers digestion means it can sabotage your birth control.
You overindulge in foods that interfere with your hormones. We are what we eat, and certain food items can disrupt the hormonal balance the Pill brings about. As long as you have a healthy diet full of moderation, there’s generally no risk at all. However, overindulging in foods like grapefruit, soy, licorice, or even yams can have a negative effect. Of course, no formal studies have proven the links between these foods and BC, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
You’re a smoker. This is true because smoking reduces estrogen levels in the body, and the reduced estrogen causes irregular bleeding. Irregular bleeding indicates that the Pill isn’t working as it should. Plus Pill-poppers who smoke have a risk of developing osteoporosis and blood clots. As if you needed another reason to stop smoking!
You take a lot of herbal supplements. Many herbal remedies contain naturally-occurring chemicals which in turn can cause surprising reactions in your body including sabotaging your birth control. Avoid St. John’s Wort (sleep disorders and depression), garlic pills (for weight loss and cholesterol control) and soy isoflavones (for menopause and stronger bones). Other herbs that disrupt birth control are alfalfa, flaxseed, and saw palmetto.
You take medication for conditions including migraines, seizures, and depression. Some medicines, especially for seizures and migraines, are liver-enzyme inducing, which means they help the liver break down hormones—and that includes the extra hormones from your birth control pills. Watch out for ingredients like carbamazepine, phenobarbital, oxcarbazepine, and felbamate. Antidepressants such as Prozac and even diabetic medications like Avandia can sabotage your birth control as well. Make it a habit to inform your doctor about any other medications you might be taking.
You’re on antibiotics. Most standard antibiotics like the ones your doctor may give to you in case of a UTI, stomach or even throat infection do not reduce the efficacy of the Pill. However, antibiotics for tuberculosis or meningitis, like Rifampicin and Rifabutin, might sabotage your birth control. Some anti-fungal medicines have the same issues. Again, check and recheck with your doctor to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
You take an antiretroviral for HIV. If you’re taking medication for HIV, the efficacy of your OC is gone. Antiretroviral medications contain protease inhibitors and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, which in turn affect hormonal levels. Also, taking the Pill with these medicines increases the risk of life-threating blood clots called embolisms. The best way to avoid any unwanted pregnancies is to look for a non-oral birth control like an IUD.