5 Things That Can Stop The Pill Working Properly
There are lots of different reasons why people take the hormonal contraception pill. From managing heavy periods to acne, lots of them have nothing to do with preventing pregnancy – but if you are turning to the Pill for birth control, it’s important to know how to make sure it’s as effective as possible.
Whether you’re on the combined or progesterone-only pill, you might have been put off by the ridiculously massive fold out that comes neatly folded inside the box, feel like your doctor didn’t prepare you enough or that you couldn’t ask all the questions you really wanted to. This Sexual Health Week, Henn Mossery-Golan asked Dr HANX, our in-house gynaecology doctor and Co-Founder Dr Sarah Welsh, for the top five things you might not realise can stop your pill working as it should…
1. Certain medications
Taking some prescription medications may make your birth control less effective. Look out for:
- Enzyme-inducing medications for epilepsy
- Some antiretroviral therapies for HIV
- Griseofulvin and ketoconazole - which are antifungal treatments.
It's important to make your GP or healthcare professional aware of any other medication you might be taking when using birth control – and if unsure, ask!
Some antibiotics don’t cause problems with hormonal contraception. However, the antibiotic rifampicin reduces concentrations of estrogen in the blood, so if you’re taking this, it’s important to take extra precautions, such as using condoms. Top tip: this antibiotic is usually used to treat or prevent diseases such as tuberculosis and meningitis. Remember, if you’re being prescribed antibiotics for any condition at all, make sure your GP or health provider is aware you’re taking the pill, specifically ask if it can make the pill less effective – and pack those johnnies in the meantime, too.
3. Forgetting to take the pill or taking it too late
For your hormonal birth control to be most effective, you should take it at the same time every day. If you’re on the progesterone-only pills, you need to take it within the same 3-hour window every day for maximum effectiveness. If you take the combined pill, you’ve got a slightly longer window but should still take it within 24 hours. Use additional contraception for the next 48 hours after taking the missed pill. If you have had unprotected sex before you realised you missed a pill, you may need emergency contraception.
4. Herbal remedies
If you’re into going au naturale with herbal remedies, you should still be aware that some herbs and natural supplements can interact with your birth control. For example, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has stated that herbal products including St. John’s Wort interact with combined and progestogen-only hormonal contraceptive pills, and also the implant (Nexplanon and Implanon) and reduce the effectiveness of the pill. If you’re not planning on pregnancy, avoid using these herbal products – or use a condom, too.
5. Vomiting or Diarrhoea
Whilst the pill tends to be absorbed relatively quickly, if you’re sick or have diarrhoea 2 hours after taking the progesterone-only pill or 3 hours after taking the combined pill, then it’s unlikely to have been absorbed by your body. In this scenario, it’s recommended that you take the next pill immediately and continue as normal. If you continue to have sickness or diarrhoea, count each day you are ill as a day that you have missed your pill. Make sure to use a condom and contact your sexual health clinic, GP or health advisor if you’re unsure of what to do.