Even though they're mostly reliable, it's true that birth control pills fail sometimes. Just ask my mom, who was "pleasantly surprised" by the discovery of my conception because she was using them at the time. Was she using them correctly? I don't know. She thought she was; I do know that. This is why it's important to know what behaviors and situations decrease its efficacy so you don't get pregnant while on the pill.
This isn't fear-mongering meant to make you distrust contraception, but rather, some information that you can use to keep your baby box on lockdown. It's good stuff to learn and to share with your friends, because if your birth control game isn't strong, the consequences are quite literally life changing.
Even with perfect use, one out of 100 women will become pregnant while using the pill, according to Planned Parenthood. Actually, Planned Parenthood says that less than one woman will become pregnant, but because there are no fractional women, and because claiming 100 percent efficacy can be dangerous, they must only claim that it works to prevent pregnancy more than 99 percent of the time. As a Planned Parenthood clinic manager with a Responsible Sexuality Educator certificate, I know that the odds of you becoming pregnant with perfect use are so small that you can feel confident taking it — as long as you know what to do should one of the following situations occur.
1. You Threw Up
If you throw up within two hours of taking your birth control pill, no matter what kind of pill you're on, you have to kiss that pill goodbye. The same goes for diarrhea that lasts more than 24 hours, according to Baby Center. If you didn't know that and didn't follow your pill's instructions for a single missed dose, you're probably fine, but if you missed two or more pills in a row, you could definitely become pregnant.
2. You Took Certain Medications
Rifampin is the only antibiotic you have to worry about when you're on the pill, according to the Mayo Clinic, and it's kind of rarely prescribed nowadays. If you took other types of antibiotics, you're fine. There are other medications used for fungal infections, HIV, and seizures that can make your birth control less effective, so always ask your doctor about birth control combined with any medication you're taking.
3. You Left Your Pills In Your Car
Or maybe your keep them in your purse or in the bathroom. This is not a great idea. Birth control pills need to be stored in temperatures less than 77 degrees or they start to degrade, according to BabyMed. If you're not sure, use a backup method, such as condoms, until you start a new, properly stored pack.
4. You Took St. John's Wort
The National Institutes of Health warns against taking St. John's Wort if you take birth control that contains estrogen. St. John's Wort is a popular herbal depression remedy that interferes with the way your body breaks down estrogen.
5. You Can't Remember If You Took It
Imperfect use, or not taking your birth control when and how your're supposed to, is the number one reason it fails, according to Planned Parenthood. You don't have to take it with scientific precision, but you do need to take it around the same time every day, especially if you're taking progestin-only pills, or you could become pregnant. When in doubt, Planned Parenthood recommends using condoms for seven days after a missed pill, just in case.
6. You Just Started Taking The Pill
If you start taking the pill right after your period ends, you're good to go. If you start your pill on a random day in the middle of the month, you need to use a backup for the first seven days, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, or you could become pregnant.
These are common mistakes many women make when they take the pill. The risk of pregnancy is small when you make a mistake, but knowing when to use a backup method makes you safe rather than sorry.
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