While birth control pills like Diane-35 and Yasmin have high success rates, these results are very dependent on how they are taken, when they are taken, and how often they are taken. It is possible for birth control pills to achieve a 99% effectiveness rate, but only with “perfect use”. That is to say, the birth control is taken everyday at the same time without missing a single dose.
“Typical use” is how most women will take birth control and this has a 91% effectiveness rate at preventing pregnancy. It is common that women might forget to start a new pack of birth control pills or forget to take a dosage occasionally. When this occurs, the likelihood of the birth control failing increases as do the chances of accidentally pregnancy.
Why Do Birth Control Pills Fail?
There are certain habits, behaviours and conditions that can cause your birth control to fail and cause accidental pregnancy to occur.
Accidentally forgetting to take your birth control pill, or even not taking it at the same time everyday, could cause your birth control to fail. By design, birth control pills are meant to maintain and keep your hormonal levels consistent. By accidentally missing a dosage, it can cause your hormonal levels to drop suddenly and depending on your cycle, it could even cause you to ovulate. This will then increase the likelihood of you getting accidentally pregnant.
Consuming other kinds of medication or supplements while taking birth control pills can also adversely affect the efficacy of the birth control and cause them to fail.
Excessive amounts of alcohol can also cause your birth control pills to fail for various reasons. It is possible that while inebriated, some women might forget to take their birth control pills. If you do take your pill before drinking, but vomit soon after, it is possible that your body will not be able to absorb the hormones. This will then cause your hormonal level to drop and trigger ovulation.
Ways to Prevent Birth Control Failure
Here are some ways to ensure that your birth control pills are working as they should and how to avoid accidental pregnancy:
- Don’t Mix Medication
There is a possibility that some medications (either over-the-counter or prescription) can interfere with your birth control pill and cause them to fail. It is important that you consult your doctor before taking a new medication to avoid adverse reactions and accidental pregnancy.
While most common antibiotics have been debunked with causing birth control failure, there is some evidence that Rifampin, an uncommon antibiotic, could potentially adversely interact with birth control pills and reduce its effectiveness.
- Timing Is Vital
The efficacy of birth control pills is highly dependent on you taking them regularly everyday, at the same time, without missing a dosage. Setting reminders on your phone or taking birth control pills during activities like lunch or dinner can help ensure that you don’t forget.
Should you take progestin-only birth control pills, it is even more important that you stick to your daily schedule. If you skip a dose or are late with taking your dose, it is likely that your hormone level could drop, causing you to ovulate and increasing the likelihood of you getting pregnant.
If you miss taking your birth control for the day, either avoid having sex for the following week or use a backup protection method such as using condoms.
- Taking The Placebo Pills
It is common that combination pill packs consist of 3 weeks of active pills containing hormones, and a week of placebo, or inactive, pills. It is important that you take those placebo pills even if they are not medically necessary, so as to not disrupt your cycle and end up starting your next pack of combination pills late.
Accidentally skipping your placebo pills could affect your body’s hormonal levels, causing you to ovulate and increasing the likelihood of you getting pregnant.
- Avoid Taking St. John’s Wort
A popular over-the-counter supplement to treat mood disorders and menopausal symptoms, St. John’s Wort has the potential to affect your liver’s metabolism and reduce the efficacy of your birth control pills. It is possible that breakthrough bleeding and accidental pregnancy could occur should you take both St. John’s Wort and birth control together.
It is highly recommended that you consult your doctor to determine whether it is safe for you to take these two medications together. It is also important that when taking St. John’s Wort, that you have a backup protection method to avoid accidental pregnancy.
Signs and Symptoms That You Are Pregnant
To determine whether your birth control has failed or not, here are some early signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Early Signs of Pregnancy
These include: swollen and tender breasts, weird food cravings (like sweets and starchy carbs) and a sudden aversion to scents or certain types of food.
- Missed Period
Missing a period is often thought by many women as an early indicator of pregnancy.
However, this is not a foolproof indicator as some women might not have regular periods while they are taking birth control pills. It is also possible for some women to experience implantation bleeding, which occurs after 6-12 days from conception when the fertilised egg attaches itself to the uterus. This could be mistaken by some as their period, especially if they experience very light menstrual bleeding.
- Morning Sickness
If you suddenly experience vomiting, nausea and fatigue, these might be early signs that you are pregnant. Despite its name, morning sickness doesn’t necessarily mean you will experience the symptoms only in the morning. As your body adjusts to conception, you might begin to experience a sudden onset of fatigue as well.
If you experience any of these early symptoms and suspect you might be pregnant, it is important you take early action and procure a pregnancy test to check.
If You Are Pregnant, What Is The Next Step?
If you have discovered that you are pregnant after taking a pregnancy test, it is important to consult your doctor as quickly as possible. They will recommend that you begin to take prenatal vitamins everyday and that you stop taking birth control pills.
Should you not want to continue with the pregnancy, it is made even more important that you consult your doctor quickly to begin the termination process.
Like other medication, birth control, when taken as designed, is an effective method at preventing pregnancies and can help other conditions like menstrual cramps and acne breakouts. However, should there be discrepancies in the taking of the birth control, there is a chance that the birth control might fail and pregnancy could occur.
It is important that you take into account habits in your life that could potentially cause your birth control to fail, and to avoid them to ensure that your birth control is working effectively.
Should you require further assistance regarding birth control pills, you can talk to one of our doctors here at Zoey. Our doctors are best equipped with the knowledge to help determine what is causing your birth control to fail. They will also be able to advise you on the best treatment suited for you.