Since 1960, women have been turning to oral contraceptives as a relatively easy and effective form of birth control. Today's birth control pills contain fewer hormones and cause less side effects than the original pills. They are high effective, with only a 0.3 percent chance of pregnancy when taken correctly. Even so, there are still ways you can get pregnant while taking the pill.
When you decide to start taking oral contraceptives, you should talk to your doctor about your health history and your current lifestyle. Smoking, age, and taking other medications in combination with the pill can cause life-threatening medical problems such as blood clots.
If you find that you have been on the pill for some time, and you experience uncomfortable side effects such as nausea or breakthrough bleeding (spotting between periods) that aren't getting better, you should talk to your health care professional about switching to a different pill. Don't stop taking the pill mid-cycle because you can get pregnant.
Once your doctor prescribes the pill they think will work best for you, it is important to read all of the instructions that come with your prescription. The majority of pregnancies that occur while on the pill are due to not following the directions. But that's not the only way the pill can be ineffective. Here are some other ways that you can get pregnant while taking the birth control pill.
1. You Are On Certain Medication
According to Planned Parenthood, the only antibiotic known to make the pill less effective is rifampin, which is used to treat tuberculosis. It is also known by brand name Rifadin and Rimactane. The site also lists other medications that can make the pill less effective such as anti-HIV protease inhibitors, some anti-seizure medications, the anti-fungal medication, griseofulvin, also known as Fulvicin, Gris-PEG, Grifulvin V, Grisactin, and Gristatin, which is used to treat severe fungal infections. To be on the safe side, tell your doctor that you are taking the pill any time you are prescribed medication.
2. You Don't Take The Pill At The Same Time Everyday
Although a difference of a few minutes to an hour may not decrease the efficacy of most pills, some forms of birth control. According to research at Columbia University, certain pills such as progestin-only pills, must be taken at the same time every day. If you take your pill late, you should consider using a back-up method of birth control for 48 hours.
3. You Forget To Take The Pill
With the number of different types of birth control pills available, the University of California, Davis notes that missing pills at any point in your cycle may require you to use a back-up method of birth control. It is important to read the instruction packet that comes with your pills.
4. You Just Got On The Pill
If you just started taking the pill, nurse practitioner Li-Chun Liu warned that you must take the pill consistently for seven consecutive days in order to be protected from pregnancy. Having sex without a back-up method on the first seven days of being on the pill greatly increases your chance of pregnancy.
5. You Have Been Sick
IF it's coming out at either end, you may reduce the efficacy of the pill. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you vomit within two hours of taking the pill or have severe vomiting and diarrhea for two or more days, you should use a back-up method of birth control for seven days.
6. You've Had Too Much To Drink
Dr. Millicent Comrie, founder and director of the Long Island College Hospital Center for Women’s Health, told Fox News that alcohol is metabolized by the liver and "any drug that affects the liver may also affect the way the pill is absorbed by the body." Excessive drinking can also cause you to throw up, have diarrhea, or may impair your judgment, which can affect whether you remember to take the pill on time.
7. You Drink Grapefruit Juice
Grapefruit juice can interact adversely with certain medications, because the compounds in grapefruit juice suppress an intestinal enzyme that processes medications including those with hormones, according to The University Of Alaska Anchorage Student Health and Counseling Center.
8. You Take Herbal Supplements
According to a 2005 study, the most common herbal supplement to interact with the birth control pill is St. John's Wort. They study found that women who were on the pill and also taking St. John's Wort had 15 percent less contraceptive hormone in their bloodstream. Other supplements that can influence hormone levels and should not be taken with the pill are Vitex, also known as chasteberry and monk's pepper; Dong Quai, scientifically known as angelica sinensis; Black Cohosh, also known as rattleweed, bugbane, bugwort and black snakeroot; and Red Clover, also known as cow clover and wild clover.
9. Your Pills Were Packaged Incorrectly
CNN reported in 2015, that more 100 women in 28 states sued a pharmaceutical company which erroneously packaged eight brands of birth control pills in 2011, causing 111 pregnancies, 97 which were carried to term. The pills were packaged in a way that caused the women to take the placebo pills at the beginning of the month, rather than at the end.
10. Your Pills Were Exposed To Heat
In an interview with The New York Times, Dr. Skye McKennon, clinical professor at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy, noted that birth control is susceptible to temperature changes. You may be at risk for pregnancy if you leave your pills in the car, in a hot and humid bathroom, or anywhere else they can be exposed to heat.
11. You Are Part Of The 0.3 To 9 Percenters
A 2011 study on contraceptive failure in the United States by James Trussell, Princeton professor of economics and public affairs, categorized birth control pill usage into"typical use" and "perfect use". Only 0.3 percent of women who fall under the "perfect use" category become pregnant while using oral contraceptives. However, 9 percent of women who fall under the "typical use" category get pregnant while on the pill. Even with perfect use, you could be the one out of every 334 women who take the pill perfectly to become pregnant.