3 Surprising Things That Can Affect Oral Birth Control

I am certainly not an expert on women’s birth control, but I do recognize how important this medication is to women’s health. While there is a lot of different types of birth control out there, one of the most popular is oral contraceptives, often known as “the pill.” This is the method that is used by a lot of women; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 percent of all women between the ages of 15 and 49 use it! (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/contraceptive.htm)

What I didn’t know but learned recently is that there are a number of pretty ordinary things that can mess with the effectiveness of the pill. So, whether you use this medication or have a loved one who does, here’s what you should know.

Storage matters

This one actually applies to a lot of medications. Generally, you should keep pills in an area where the temperature is stable so they’re not exposed to moisture, heat, light or air. All of these things can make an oral medication less effective. This means your medicine cabinet in your bathroom and your glove box, for example, are not the most ideal storage spots. A dresser drawer or a cabinet in the kitchen away from heat-producing appliances are actually better storage space options.

Antibiotics are a problem

Some antibiotics can interfere with how a woman’s body processes hormones, and this impacts the effectiveness of the pill. It’s not just antibiotics; HIV medication, certain antidepressants and some herbal remedies may also mess with the pill. Best practice here is to consult with your doctor any time you’re going to start a new medicine, and make it clear to them which medications you are planning on taking together.

Smoking is serious trouble

Smoking comes with a lot of obvious health risks, including heart disease and lung disease. On top of all that, cigarettes can reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives because they affect the levels of estrogen in your body. Women who smoke while using oral birth control are also at a higher risk for heart attacks and other health problems. If you do intend to keep smoking, be sure to tell your doctor before you start taking or continue using the pill. Your doctor may be able to suggest another form of birth control that carries less risk for you.

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