One of the most common questions people ask about contraception is “Can you get pregnant on birth control?” You may be considering birth control and have questions. You might have questions even if you are already using oral contraceptives to reduce your risk of pregnancy. Read on to get answers to your questions about contraception and conception.
Can You Get Pregnant on Birth Control? Answers to This and Other Questions about Pregnancy While Using Contraception
Taking Pills as Birth Control
About 62 percent of women of reproductive age use some form of birth control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Twenty-eight percent of those women who use contraceptives use birth control pills.
Many of these women have questions about their birth control, but forget to bring up their questions to their healthcare provider. If you are sexually active and want to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, here are answers to what you want to know about birth control pills.
Can You Get Pregnant on Birth Control?
Yes. Birth control pills are 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy when used perfectly, according to the National Women’s Health Resource Center, Inc. Perfect use means taking the pill every day at the same time without ever missing a dose or taking it late. Let’s face it – nobody is perfect. Anyone can miss a dose or take a dose at the wrong time. Other factors can interfere with the action of birth control pills. In real life, the pill is about 91 percent effective. This means 9 out of every 100 birth control pill users get pregnant each year.
What Are the Main Causes of Birth Control Failure?
Missing a dose, taking your dose late, or forgetting to start a new pack of pills increases your risk of accidental pregnancy. Certain conditions or behaviors can cause your birth control method to fail at preventing pregnancy.
How Do Oral Contraceptives Work?
A woman’s ovaries produce eggs. Doctors refer to this as ovulation. The rise and fall of certain hormones cause ovulation. Oral contraceptive pills work by causing changes in a woman’s body. Specifically, these pills contain hormones that prevent a woman’s ovaries from releasing an egg during her monthly cycle. You cannot get pregnant without an egg.
What Happens When I Miss a Dose or Take It Late?
Missing a dose of oral contraceptives or taking it late can cause your birth control pills to fail. Hormone levels can change quickly. Missing a dose can cause the level of hormones to dip low enough to allow the ovaries to release an egg. Even taking your oral contraceptives at different times throughout the day can cause a drop in hormone levels and increase your chances of pregnancy.
Drinking alcohol can also cause your birth control to fail. Being under the influence of alcohol might make you forget to take your pill at the right time. Imbibing might cause you to throw up. If you throw up too soon after taking your pill, your body might not have time to absorb the hormones.
Some medications and supplements can change the effectiveness of your birth control pill. This is especially true if you take these drugs or supplements at the same time as you take your birth control.
How Can I Prevent Birth Control Failure?
If you take birth control pills, you may not need to have a monthly period. Find out how to use the pill to have more control over your cycle. https://t.co/CNhpfHpaip
— SELF Magazine (@SELFmagazine) December 21, 2017
Here are a few questions and answers about reducing your risk of an unwanted pregnancy while on birth control.
Does It Matter What Time I Take My Pill?
Yes! Take your pill at the same time every day. This keeps your hormone levels as constant as possible. Set a daily timer on your phone or smart watch. Take the pill while engaging in a specific activity. Take it during a meal, for example, or while getting dressed.
It is especially important to take progestin-only pills at the exact same time every day. Your progestin levels can drove very fast. Skipping a dose or being just a little late can cause your hormone levels to drop.
What Should I Do If I Miss a Dose?
If you miss a dose of your birth control, avoid sex for the next week. You can also use a backup method, such as a condom. To be extra sure, you can avoid sex or use a backup method until you start your next cycle. Whatever you do, do not have unprotected sex if you do not wish to become pregnant.
Can I Skip Those Extra Pills?
Your birth control pill packs probably contain enough pills for the entire month. These packs typically contain a three-week supply of pills that contain hormones, along with a week’s worth of placebo pills. These placebo pills are inactive, which means they do not contain any hormones. You take these pills during your menstrual cycle.
While it is not medically necessary to take these inactive pills, taking the placebo pills does help you stay in the habit of taking a pill at the same time every day. Skipping the inactive placeboes increases the changes that you will be late starting your next pill pack. Starting late can change your body’s hormone levels and cause you to ovulate.
Is It Okay to Take All My Medications at One Time?
Probably not. Never mix medications – especially when starting a new type of contraceptive. Some prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and supplements can interfere with your birth control. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medications and help you decide if you should use a backup method of birth control while you start the new contraceptive.
Is It True That Antibiotics Can Cause Unplanned Pregnancy?
There are undocumented cases of contraceptive failure while using antibiotics, but there is no proof that antibiotics can cause your birth control to fail. You may wish to use backup protection while taking antibiotics, just to be sure.
Can I Use St. John’s Wort?
St. John’s wort is a popular over-the-counter herbal supplement. Many people use it for depression and other problems. Researchers are still trying to figure out if St. John’s wort causes contraceptive failure. Again, you may want to use backup contraception while taking St. John’s wort.
Asking the right questions about getting pregnant while on birth control can help you avoid unwanted pregnancies. For more information about getting the most out of your birth control method, talk to your health care provider.
Will I Know If I Am Pregnant Right Away?
It is easy to overlook the early symptoms of pregnancy. This is especially true if you are on birth control.
What Are the Symptoms of Pregnancy While on Birth Control?
The symptoms of pregnancy are the same while on birth control as when you are not using contraceptives. These symptoms include:
- Missed period
- Swollen or tender breasts
- A sudden dislike to certain foods or odors
- Odd food cravings
- Morning sickness, which can actually occur at any time of day
You might experience nausea and vomiting if you are pregnant while on birth control. You might even grow tired more quickly or more easily.
What Do I Do If I Have These Symptoms?
You can take a home pregnancy test. Your doctor can also confirm your pregnancy status.
What if I Don’t Always Get a Period?
Missing a period is one of the big signs of pregnancy. Some women do not have a period while on birth control, so these women may not realize that they are pregnant.
Can I Have a Period and Still be Pregnant?
Yes! Fertilized eggs attach to the uterus, where they grow. Sometimes the action of the fertilized egg attaching to the uterus can cause light bleeding. It is easy to mistake this bleeding for a period. Women who typically have very light periods can experience this type of period-like bleeding while pregnant.
What Should I Do if I Think I’m Pregnant While On Birth Control?
If you think you are pregnant while taking birth control pills, speak with your doctor as soon as you can. You will need to start caring for your growing baby if you plan to continue the pregnancy. This means you may need to stop taking oral contraceptives and start taking prenatal vitamins. You will also need to start preparing for your upcoming delivery.
If you decide to terminate the pregnancy, you will need to start the process right away. Depending on where you live, laws may prevent you from terminating your pregnancy after a certain point.
Can Taking the Pill Harm My Unborn Baby?
Some research suggests that taking birth control pills during early pregnancy might cause low birth weight, preterm delivery, and other problems. It does not seem to happen, though. Taking birth control during early pregnancy does not increase the risk of birth defects for your baby, according to Mayo Clinic. It is still important to stop taking the pill as soon as you think you are pregnant.
Find out the signs you need to look for if you suspect pregnancy while on birth control with this video from Alma Radid.
Taken correctly, birth control is a great way to prevent pregnancy. Oral contraceptives can also treat acne, painful menstrual cramps, and more. As with any medicine, it is important to use birth control as intended. If you do not, you might end up pregnant.
Having questions like “Can you get pregnant on birth control pills?” is a valid concern, especially if you’re not yet ready to take your relationship to the next step. Did we answer your questions about birth control? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
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