No-Cost and Confidential Women's Center

Can I Get Pregnant on Birth Control Pills?

Some of our patients are shocked to learn they are pregnant because they have been on birth control and thought they were protected. What happened? Can you really get pregnant while taking hormonal birth control pills?

Birth control failure can and does happen.  Here is a list of contraception failure rates. Usually there are specific reasons why birth control fails.  Here are some of the most common reasons women get pregnant while on birth control:

1.  Missing a dose or a few doses:  Sometimes you just forget to take your pills for a couple of days or you ran out and are waiting to get paid so you can get your next set.  Missing even one dose, especially at the beginning of the cycle, can increase your odds of getting pregnant.  If you miss a dose, be sure to use condoms while you get back on track.

2. Timing of your doses: Be sure to take your pills at the same time each day, especially if it is a mini pill or progestin only pill.  Altering the timing can increase your chances of getting pregnant.

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3. Digestion issues:  Some people struggle with proper digestion because of Crohn’s disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and their medication isn’t absorbed properly.  Even if you don’t usually struggle with your digestive tract but you get a bad stomach bug and are having diarrhea and vomiting, your birth control may not be absorbed properly during that time.  Be sure to use an alternative form of contraceptive that month.  One article mentioned an increase in pregnancies due to a detox tea that caused diarrhea and led to pregnancies in pill users.  Any laxatives you are using may play a role in your birth control effectiveness.

4. Antibiotics and some other medications:  Although most antibiotics are safe to use with birth control, at least one, Rifampin, is known to reduce the effectives of birth control.  Are you on seizure medications or antidepressants?  Many different types of medications can affect how well your birth control pills work.  Check with your physician about any new medication to be sure it doesn’t interfere with your birth control.

5. Storage Temperature:  Do you keep your birth control in your purse, car, or hot humid bathroom? High temperatures can damage your contraceptives, rendering them ineffective. Read the product label or ask your pharmacist about the ideal storage temperature for your pills.

6. Some foods and herbal remedies may also interfere with your contraceptives:  Grapefruit is one food culprit that reduces the effectiveness of birth control. The popular remedy St. John’s Wort is known to increase the breakdown of hormonal contraceptives, leaving you at a higher risk for pregnancy.

Also, keep in mind that there have been medication recalls, although those cases are rare.  Take a medication recall seriously, and if needed use alternative protection until the situation is remedied.

Contraceptives do help reduce your risk for pregnancy but they are not 100% effective.  Be aware of what medications and foods are not recommended with your birth control.  Be sure to take your pills at the same time every day. Also remember that hormonal birth control provides no protection against STDS.  Abstinence is the best and only way to prevent both pregnancy and STDs.  Condoms only reduce your risk…they do not fully protect you from pregnancy or from getting an STD.

You are capable
of more than you know.