As long as you're remembering to take them, it doesn't seem like there would be other things you're doing that mess with birth control, but this is actually not the case. Birth control pills have a pretty high efficacy rate. We're talking higher than 99 percent with perfect use, according to Planned Parenthood. But perfect use is the key. And perfect use of birth control pills is trickier than you may know. In fact, birth control pills have a reduced typical first-year efficacy rate of 91 percent due to user error, according to Columbia University's Health Services. You may be taking your pill at the same time every day, but there are some other pretty common scenarios that sneakily mess with your birth control. So common, in fact, that you probably don't even know you're doing them.
And no shame in your game. You're taking control of your sexual health, even if you're not yet a perfect user. If you're doing any of the following, no need to panic. All you need is a tweak or two to get you back into that 99 percent range. And, as always, when in doubt, call your doctor or the helpful people at Planned Parenthood to get all your birth control questions answered.
1. Taking Herbal Supplements
St. John's Wort, an herbal depression remedy (not confirmed by the FDA), decreases the efficacy of hormonal birth control, according to Brown University's Student Health Services. If you don't take any supplements, check your teas just to be on the safe side, as they often contain herbal remedies.
2. Taking Too Many Vitamins
High doses of Vitamin C won't decrease how well your birth control works, but it can increase the side effects associated with estrogen, such as nausea, headache, and bloating, according to both Elon University and Penn State University's Student Health Services. I'm pretty sure you don't have time for any of that nonsense.
3. Taking Antibiotics
According to the University of California, Santa Barbara, several studies out of Harvard examined birth control failure rates and antibiotics and found that most common antibiotics don't significantly increase failure rates. That means you don't have to worry if you get a common illness and take a common antibiotic. However, there is one antibiotic, Rifampin, that has been shown to interfere with birth control, according to the U.S. National Library Of Medicine (NLM), so be on the lookout for that one, and talk to your doctor if you have questions.
4. Taking It Whenever You Want
"Perfect use" is the industry term for taking your birth control exactly as the instruction label tells you to, according to Young Women's Health. When the pill says it's 99.9 percent effective, they mean with perfect use. Part of perfect use means taking your pill at roughly the same time each day. You have a little bit of leeway there. In fact, according to the student health service department at Brown University, you don't have to consider your pill "missed" unless it's been more than 24 hours after you last took it. Still, taking it irregularly is not perfect use and can decrease the efficacy. If you use progestin-only pills, you only have about a three-hour window, according to Go Ask Alice.
5. Partying Too Hard
If you throw up within two hours of taking your pill, you have to consider that a missed pill, according to the Mayo Clinic. That means you need to time your party hangovers accordingly in order to keep your baby box locked down. And when you miss a pill, in most cases, you take it as soon as you remember or you double up the next day, but check your pill pack instructions or call your doctor if you're unsure of what to do.
6. Stacking Your Pills
Stacking your pills is a common and easy way to avoid getting your period. It involves skipping the last week of inactive pills and going straight to a new pack. This process is totally safe, according to the Feminist Women's Health Center, but it does require you to throw away a fourth of your pills each month. If your insurance will only pay for 12 packs per year, you'll end up spending a few months with no pills.
Now that you know what may be affecting your birth control, you can make whatever tweaks to your daily life you need to make to keep that birth control efficacy rate as high as possible! And remember, when in doubt, use a back-up method, like condoms.
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