I had a friend who could never remember to take her birth control. She wound up pregnant because she was consistently missing multiple days in the cycle. She didn't think it was a big deal. She'd tell me how the pull-out method was an effective use of birth control. She has a child now. While the pull-out method has apparently gained newfound popularity in recent years, it is not a great way to avoid pregnancy, because it's rarely done correctly. Would you trust someone to pull out 100 percent correctly every single time you have sex? I sure wouldn't.
Birth control has clear directions, but it's not like we learned about how to use it properly in school. Other than the old "Here's a condom on a banana. Do you get it?" style of sex education, sex ed in a America is lacking. In fact, the banana on a condom spiel is pretty much the best case scenario in most schools.
So here is how you DON’T get pregnant on birth control. Since you need the information, your friends need the information, everyone needs the information. Knowledge is power. Let's go, fellow queens!
Take Your Birth Control Every Day
The first thing you have to do is get in the habit of taking your pill. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been on birth control since your late teens or early 20s. Make your birth control a part of your everyday routine. Brush teeth, have breakfast, get dressed, take birth control, put on makeup. If taken *perfectly*, your birth control is 99 percent effective. But actual use is a 91 percent effectiveness rate, according to Planned Parenthood.
The real deal? Taking your daily dose of birth control is not optional. You can’t just skip a day here and there and expect things to be OK. I know it's annoying AF and we've all messed it up, but it's the truth. Protect yourself, my darlings!
Take It At The Same Time
Now, you will hear some people say that you have to take your birth control at the same time each day. I’ve also heard you have a three-hour window, a one-hour window and many other variations on when to take the pill. So what is the deal? Dr. Rebecca Brightman of East Side Women's Associates tells Bustle that with the majority of pills, the time of day actually doesn’t matter as long as you’re taking it consistently on the daily. “I tell my patients to take their pills at the same time every day [just] so they can establish a routine,” she says.
If taking a pill at the same time every day isn't your bag, be sure you know what hormone dose of birth control you're on. Lower doses are more important to take on a strict schedule. “With lower dose pills (20 and particularly 10mcg) there is less ‘wiggle room,’" Dr. Brightman says. "In order to avoid spotting, or mid-cycle bleeding, it is best to take these pill at the same time. In general, one should avoid the lowest dose OCPS in obese patients, as efficacy hasn't been studied in women with a BMI greater than 35.”
You might be scratching your head wondering, “Am I on a lower dose? I have no idea.” That’s OK. Many women have no clue what their dose is; we just take the Rx to the pharmacy and call it a day. You can look right your package and check the dosage, or just call your doctor and ask.
Now, you might be wondering about ~travel~ if you're a prolific globe trotter and woman about town. What should you do if forget to take it while on a trip, miss the time because of the ~timez one change,~ or take it 10 hours late, huh?!? "As soon as you realize you have forgotten your pill take your pill and then take the next pill at the usual time (a time difference won't make a difference). If a pill is skipped (i,e, if 24 hrs have elapsed), then double up the next day," says Dr. Brightman. "Efficacy is still maintained."
Set An Alarm On Your Phone Or Google Calendar
Are you one of those people who has trouble remembering to do things? Maybe you’re sitting at work and suddenly remember you forgot to take your birth control this morning. Instead of relying on memory alone, set a daily alarm. Go into your phone’s reminders and set a “BC!” reminder. And just in case your phone dies, set the same daily alarm as an event on your Google calendar. You won’t have to remember because technology will do it for you. I’ll openly admit this has saved me many times.
Don’t Leave Your Pills At Home
Make a habit of having it on your person at all times. Stick it in your purse, wallet or backpack. If you have it on you, you run a lower risk of forgetting to take it. If you’re at work and suddenly realize you didn’t take your pill that morning, you can reach into your purse, pop it in your mouth, and continue about your business.
Since carrying it around does mean you’re more likely to misplace it (who hasn’t lost their wallet before?), always have a backup pack of birth control at home. Unfortunately, this isn't ~always~ possible. Check with your insurance because some providers will only let you have one pack per month.
"Most plans will only distribute one pack/mo, however, some mail away services will dispense three packs at a time." Dr. Brightman says, "Many plans have a vacation override-so if you are traveling/spending a semester abroad you may be able to get several packs at a time. I would encourage women to discuss this with their health care providers."
If You Miss More Than 2 Days In A Row, Use Condoms For A Week
If you miss one pill during your cycle, don’t freak out. You’re probably OK. If you miss two, that's a different story. “Traditionally, one can skip a day and just double up the next day without the pill losing its efficacy," Dr. Brightman says. “If you miss two days, take two pills for the following two days [and] be sure to use a backup method of contraception for at least seven days.” Yes, a week. A WEEK.
This is where it get a little complicated. Most birth control pills are set up so you're taking three weeks of birth control, followed by a week of placebo. If you missed a pill, make note of when you missed it. “If two or more pills are missed during the third or fourth week of pills, then start a new pack and use a backup method for seven days,” Dr. Brightman says.
Wondering if antibiotics will affect your BC (like antibiotics)? Read this.
If You Really Can’t Remember To Take A Pill, Consider An IUD
If you simply cannot make any of this happen and are consistently missing pills, regardless of the precautions you take, consider getting an IUD.
Many of the IUDs on the market are covered by insurance, and more women than ever before are opting for this method. “For those women who don't want to use hormonal contraception (OCPs, Nuvaring, Transdermal patch), the IUD provides an excellent option as well," says Dr. Brightman. "More and more of my younger patients are inquiring and requesting IUDs. They're in increasing demand, particularly because so many young women are concerned that they will not have access to contraception.”
Whatever birth control method you choose, is up to you, but make sure you know how to use it effectively. Protect yourself, girl.