The Truth About Antibiotics and Birth Control


Have you ever been told to use a backup birth control method if you are taking antibiotics? It is always best to play it safe. After all, several antibiotic information sheets come with a warning that says antibiotics may make birth control pills less effective. But how much evidence is there to support this claim? Here’s a closer look at what the latest research studies have found in terms of the link between antibiotics and birth control.

Understanding How Birth Control Pills Work

Birth control pills are a method of preventing pregnancy. While there are countless types of birth control pills, most of them contain both estrogen and progesterone to stop the release of eggs from the ovary (ovulation). There are some pills (such as the mini-pill) that prevent pregnancy by thickening the cervical mucus and making it more difficult for the sperm to reach the egg. Regardless of exactly how they prevent pregnancy, birth control pills are a highly effective form of hormonal contraception.

Is Your Medicine Impacting Your Birth Control?

You may have full confidence in your birth control pill, but should you question its ability to do its job when you are given a course of antibiotics? According to a 2019 Healthline article, the only antibiotic proven to impact birth control pills is rifampin. This is a drug that is prescribed to treat tuberculosis and other bacterial infections. Unfortunately, rifampin has been shown to decrease hormone levels in birth control pills as well as the birth control patch and vaginal ring. This means it can change the way your contraception works and allow a chance of pregnancy.

What about other antibiotics? A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology concluded that hormone levels remain unchanged when the following commonly prescribed antibiotics are taken with birth control pills:

Did you get pregnant or know someone who got pregnant while on antibiotics and birth control pills at the same time? There may be other factors that contributed. For example, when you are sick, you may not be as consistent with taking your pill because you don’t feel well or simply get off schedule. In addition, if you are vomiting, you may not properly absorb your birth control pill.

Stay Aware and Consult Your Physician for Guidance

Despite the evidence, it is understandable that you’d still rather be “safe than sorry” when it comes to your birth control and antibiotics. A condom or other form of backup birth control is often used when having intercourse during antibiotic treatment. Keep in mind that your birth control pills can also make other drugs less effective (such as analgesics and blood pressure medications), and the effects of antidepressants, bronchodilators, and tranquilizers can actually be increased when taken with birth control pills.

When in doubt about your medications, always consult your gynecologist. At North Pointe OB/GYN, we have a clear understanding of which habits, drugs, and other factors impact the effectiveness of your birth control pill. We are happy to discuss your specific situation so that you can keep trusting your contraceptive as you always have.

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