How Birth Control Pills Work
Birth control pills are a form of hormonal contraception meant to prevent pregnancy. Most birth control pills contain the two hormones estrogen and progesterone. This helps block the release of eggs from the ovary, or ovulation. Some birth control pills, such as the minipill, help thicken cervical mucus to make it more difficult for sperm to reach an unfertilized egg.
What To Do If Youre On A Medication That Might Affect Your Contraception
If youre on medication that can change how effective your hormonal contraceptive is, its important to take other steps to avoid an unintended pregnancy. This means using a barrier contraceptive like a condom or diaphragm.
Dont try to cancel out the antibiotics by doubling up on birth control pills the way the medications interact in your body is complicated and unpredictable, so taking a bigger dose of contraceptives doesnt work.
It isnt always clear how long antibiotics continue to affect hormonal birth control, so doctors usually recommend continuing to use a barrier method or alternative to hormonal contraception to prevent pregnancy for at least seven days after the end of the antibiotic course. This can be a nice time to try other ways of having sex or being intimate.
Antibiotics And Birth Control: Does Medication Affect Hormonal Contraceptives
Youve probably heard that some medications may affect the way birth control works. But what about antibiotics? Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, and its important to take the full course when theyre prescribed. Dive into this article to find out how birth control and antibiotics work together and what to do about it.
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For Real Do Antibiotics Affect Birth Control
Since antibiotics and birth control pills are both metabolized in the liver, there used to be a concern that the two would interact with each otherand become less effectiveif taken at the same time, says FACOG, board-certified ob-gyn in Princeton, New Jersey.
Luckily, that isnt usually the case. Most broad-spectrum antibiotics do not alter the effectiveness of oral contraceptives, the patch, or the ring, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . On the flip side, birth control has not been found to make an antibiotic less effective, either, says Dr. Sophocles. Its been studied a lot, and the good news is that theres really only one antibiotic, called rifampin, that substantially alters the effectiveness of a birth control pill, she says.
Rifampin is an antibiotic most commonly used to treat tuberculosis or occasionally in people who have meningitis infections in their noses or throats. It works by increasing certain enzymes in your body, according to the United Kingdom National Health Service . These enzymes increase the breakdown of estrogen in the liverand because estrogen is one of the active hormones in the birth control pill that helps prevent ovulation, it makes the contraceptive less effective, says Sherry A. Ross, M.D., ob-gyn and author of She-ology.
How Do Antibiotics Affect Birth Control
Rifampicin affects the levels of contraceptive hormones present in the body, reducing the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives.
There are several ways pills can interact with each other, and affecting gut absorption is just one of them. Rifampicin also changes the levels of some of the liver enzymes chemicals that can affect the way we use hormones in the body.
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Mood Stabilizer & Epilepsy Medicines
Women taking some medicines to treat bipolar disorder or epileptic seizures have a double reason to choose their birth control carefully:
1) Many of the medicines used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorderBarbituates, Carbamazepine, Oxycarbazepine, Phenytoin, Primidone, Topiramate, Felbamate, and Lamotrigine when taken alonemake the pill, patch, ring and mini-pill less effective, increasing the chance of an accidental pregnancy.
2) Theres some evidence that these methods of birth control change the effectiveness of those particular medicines, too. That increases the chance of having a seizure, or a manic or depressive episode. If you have epilepsy or bipolar disorder, its really important to talk with your provider about what birth control method is best for youthere are still good options!
Foods Herbs And Supplements That Can Make Your Birth Control Less Effective
You might not realize that there are certain foods, supplements, and other things you consume that can be getting in the way of how well your birth control works. It sounds crazy, but its actually really easy to stop contraception in its tracks, so make sure its not happening to you by keeping these 14 things out of your diet:
Licorice Its delicious as a snack, but avoid too much of it if youre on the birth control pill. Licorice can boost your blood pressure which isnt a good thing since oral contraceptives do the same thing. It can also effect your reproductive hormones, which could make you fall pregnant!
Grapefruit Its a healthy, tasty fruit, but it can affect your intestinal enzymes that control how your body absorbs certain medicines. Grapefruit also decreases how much estrogen gets broken down by the body, which boosts the hormones presence. It could therefore potentially cause your contraception side effects to be increased.
St. Johns wort This is a herbal remedy people use for treating depression, but it can decrease how well your birth control works, according to Brown University in Rhode Island. Be sure that any liquid extracts, pills, or herbal teas you consume dont contain this flowering plant.
Red clover If youre suffering from bad PMS symptoms, you might reach for red clover to treat it but dont. It contains isoflavones that act like estrogen, so it can increase the estrogen-related side effects of your birth control.
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Why Does Antibiotics Affect Birth Control Efficacy
Birth control makes you infertile by manipulating your bodys hormones. Anything that can interfere with the hormones, the hormone actions or how your body deals with the hormones, can affect the protection provided by the birth control hormones. Hormonal birth control contains estrogen. Some antibiotics, cause the enzymes in the liver to increase the break-down of estrogens, and thereby decrease the levels of estrogens in the body and thus, the effectiveness of the pills. This can result in unwanted pregnancy.
A second way that antibiotics could interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills is by reducing the re-circulation of estrogens within the body. Estrogens in birth control pills are broken-down by conversion in the liver to other chemicals which are then secreted into the intestines. Bacteria in the intestine are able to convert these chemicals back into the active estrogen which is then reabsorbed into the body. This re-circulation is called entero-hepatic cycling. Theoretically, antibiotics can kill the bacteria that convert the inactive chemicals to the active estrogen, and, therefore, may interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills.
Can Antibiotics Affect Menstruation
If you’re a woman who’s ever been prescribed antibiotics while taking oral contraceptives, you’re probably familiar with the warning label that advises a second form of birth control while taking the medication. And if antibiotics can interfere with oral contraceptives, it’s understandable that you might assume that antibiotics can also affect your menstrual cycle. Do a quick sweep of the Internet, and you’ll find a slew of panicked women wondering if antibiotics have caused their missed periods . But you’ll also notice a lack of fact-supported, medical answers that confirm their suspicions. Most antibiotics come with a hefty list of possible side effects, but menstrual irregularities are never on there.
If there’s no scientific link between most antibiotics and the menstrual cycle, why are so many women convinced that antibiotics make their periods go out of whack?
Stress could be the culprit. Whether you’re frazzled because of work, a traumatic event or just an extra-demanding month, stress is a well-known cause of late periods. And an infection is an intense form of stress for your body to endure. So, if you’re taking antibiotics for an infection — especially one in the reproductive system — it’s entirely possible that your stressed-out body will decide to take a little break from your regularly scheduled monthly visitor. And it’s also possible that you will then assume that antibiotics are the guilty party.
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Other Medications That Mess With Birth Control
While antibiotics have been taking the unplanned pregnancy fall for years, there are other medications that may actually be making your birth control less effective. Any medication that has vomiting or diarrhea as a side effect â or if youâre experiencing vomiting or diarrhea because of your illness â has the potential to make oral hormonal birth control less effective. Thatâs because if youâre taking it orally , then it could be coming back up or processed too quickly through your intestine to get enough of the hormones in your blood stream. Without those hormones at sufficient levels to block ovulation, you could ovulate and therefore could get pregnant if you have sex at the right time of the month.
And remember how I said that the reason rifampin messes with your birth control is because itâs enzyme-inducing? Well, it turns out itâs not the only one. Other drugs that are enzyme-inducing include Modafinal , some epilepsy drugs , and some antiretroviral drugs that are used to treat HIV . So if youâre taking one of those medications, consider either using back up contraceptives or switching to a new method altogether.
What If I Take A Medication That Messes With Hormonal Birth Control
There are many highly effective types of birth control that are not affected by these medications, including all IUDs, the implant, and the shot. Barrier methods like condoms are also effective regardless of what medication youre taking.
In general, its good to remember that medicines can have powerful interactions with each otherand hormonal birth control is just another type of medicine. If a new medicine is prescribed for you, make sure to tell your health care provider about all of the medicines, herbal and vitamin supplements you regularly take.
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Antibiotics And Birth Control
Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria, such as urinary tract infections, sepsis, and some forms of strep throat, sinus infection, and pneumonia. Only a few antibiotics have been shown to interfere with birth control.
Antibiotics that interact with birth control: Antibiotics used to treat tuberculosis and rifabutin ).
Antibiotics that dont interact with birth control: All other antibiotics! No other antibiotics have been proven to affect hormonal birth control methods. This includes commonly prescribed antibiotics like amoxicillin and doxycycline.
Safest contraception options: In most cases, the birth control shot , hormonal implant , hormonal IUD , and copper IUD are all safe to use with antibiotics for TB. Non-hormonal methods are another safe alternative.
Will Emergency Contraception Like Plan B Work If I Am On These Medications
Emergency contraception like Plan B may not work if you:
Weigh over 165 pounds
Take anti-seizure medications, antibiotics for TB, HIV medications, or St. Johns Wort
Have recently used anti-seizure medications, antibiotics for TB, HIV medications, or St. Johns Wort
In these cases, the best method of emergency contraception is the copper IUD, for example, ParaGard. This will need to be inserted by a trained healthcare professional within 5 days of having unprotected sex. For more information about emergency contraception, see our blog post here.
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What The Research Says
Research indicates that most antibiotics do not have an effect on oral contraceptives.
And while earlier data reported that, in extremely rare circumstances, amoxicillin, ampicillin, metronidazole, and tetracycline have caused contraceptive failure, most researchers consider these studies to be too small to be conclusive.
The bottom line: Its safe to use most antibiotics with most birth control.
How Do These Meds Mess With Birth Control
For the science geeks among us, heres how this works: its all about metabolism, the process by which our bodies use and clear medicines. Just like with food, the body has an intricate and multi-step process for breaking down medicines, using them, and then clearing them from the body.
One of the key players for medicines is an enzyme called the P450 system. The P450 system helps process both of the hormones in the pill, the patch, and the ringestrogen and progestin. Some medicines speed up or slow down this enzyme system. If the system is revved up, it will go to work breaking down and removing the hormones faster than normal, resulting in lower levels of the hormones to get the job done. It can result in such low levels of hormone that the pill, patch, or ring dont work.
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Do Antibiotics Decrease Birth Control Pill Effectiveness
When used correctly, birth control pills have a 91% effectiveness rate. As the leading, most popular form of birth control, the pill is used by 28% of all women of reproductive age in the U.S. While the pill is highly effective at preventing unintended pregnancy, many women will use birth control pills for health benefits too. Birth control pills can clear up acne, regulate periods, decrease menstrual pain, and alleviate symptoms of PCOS. But some popular medications can interfere with the pills effectiveness, mainly antibiotics.
How much do antibiotics impact the efficacy of birth control pills? And are there other medications that can influence birth control pills or other contraceptive methods? The following article will explore how antibiotics and birth control pills impact each other, and what women can do to prevent pregnancy while using antibiotics or other prescription drugs.
Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Medication
If you have pulmonary arterial hypertension and are taking bosentan, you should absolutely consult with a doctor before using birth control. Bosentan decreases the concentration of hormones in the bloodstream, decreasing the efficacy of your birth control and increasing your risk of pregnancy. Bosentan can also cause severe birth defects if taken during pregnancyanother reason to talk to your doctor and make sure your birth control works for you if you have PAH. In our online consultation, we always ask patients about their blood pressure to ensure that doctors can prescribe a medication that is safe and effective.
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What If My Healthcare Provider Prescribes Rifampin For Me
If your healthcare provider does prescribe rifampin to you, be sure to let them know if you are using a hormonal contraceptive.
Unless otherwise stated by your healthcare provider, you can still continue to take your pills as usual every day. However, during this time, itâs important to use non-hormonal birth control methods, like external or internal condoms, or abstain from sex as backup protection during rifampin treatment .
If you use birth control pills, consider following the recommendations for what to do if you miss two or more pills:
Continue to use these non-hormonal backup methods for 7 days after you stop taking rifampin, provided you still have 7 hormone-containing pills left in your pack
If there are fewer than 7 hormonal pills left in the pack after you stop taking rifampin, skip the hormone-free pills and start a new pack, but still continue to use back-up contraception for the first 7 pills of the pack .
If you are using another form of hormonal contraceptive, like the patch or ring, speak to your healthcare provider.
Birth Control Pills And Antibiotics
Once several years ago I was prescribed an antibiotic to treat an ear infection. I was also taking the hormonal birth control pill, and d heard rumblings of antibiotics making the pill less effective, so I asked the doctor at the walk in clinic I was at why that was. The doctor literally said, Oh yeah, thats what they say. Im not sure. Use a second method of birth control just in case. First of all, who is they? Isnt the medical professional working with me the they she was talking about?! Clearly I wasnt going to get the answers I was looking for, so Ive taken it upon myself to do a little research.
Antibiotics work by killing bacteria in your body. This means that when you take antibiotics, some of the good bacteria in your body could also be killed. This includes good bacteria in your gut or in your vagina. Thats why digestive issues and yeast infections are more likely when youre taking antibiotics.
Certain Antibiotics Can Interfere With Birth Control To The Point Where It’s Totally Ineffective According To Self
However, the outlet explains, plenty of standard antibiotics won’t interfere with your birth control. But the sheer fact that it can easily go one way or the other is exactly why it’s so important to ask your doctor clearly and directly what the implications are, if any, of any new medication you’re adding on top of your usual birth control. For example, Planned Parenthood assures you that most over-the-counter cold and flu medications are totally fine to take with your birth control, and won’t interfere with it at all.
On the other hand, SELF notes that rifampicin and rifabutin are two such antibiotics that can get in the way of birth control â but since you’re not exactly expected to remember an entire list of medical phrases, it’s best to just communicate your concerns directly with your doctor.
Another substance that might get in the way of your birth control pill is something called St. John’s wort, which is an herbal supplement commonly used to combat depression and mood disorders, according to ABC News. The reason why the medication sometimes butts heads with birth control, the news outlet reports, is because it can mess with the speed at which your metabolism breaks down the hormones in birth control, and in turn, that might lead to a total failure of the intended hormonal balance the pill is meant to induce for your body.