Can You Possibly Be Pregnant While on The Pill?
Pregnant? That’s Impossible!
Ping! Your period tracker sent you a reminder.
Beads of sweat trickled down your cheeks and your body froze.
You opened the calendar app to check the dates. You’re a month late!
You took a deep breath and asked yourself, “could I be pregnant?”
Are the Pills Letting You Down?
Though the pills are almost always effective, you may still be a little doubtful of them working in your favour. Here are some of the top reasons your pills may become ineffective.
How Effective Is the Pill?
The pill is 99.7% effective with perfect use, resulting in less than 1 out of 100 women getting pregnant in one year1. However, typically nobody uses it perfectly, making the effectiveness of the pill drop to about 91% — that means about 9 out of 100 pill users get pregnant each year2. If you often miss or forget the pill, chances are, you might get pregnant.
If you want a method that’s even more effective at preventing pregnancy, you might want to check out IUDs and the implant. But if you prefer taking the pill, make sure you always take your pills on time, so they work as well as possible.
A birth control app or a set reminder on your phone can help you achieve the maximum effectiveness. But even if you take your pills correctly, there’s small chance that you could still get pregnant.
When Birth Control Fails…
1. Missed a pill
The pill still works if you miss it in the middle or toward the end of the pack. But if it’s the first day of active pills and you forget to restart, there’s a chance that you might get pregnant. The first week after you take the pill is the most important time to stop the egg from developing.
You’ll be at a higher risk of pregnancy when you leave a gap between the end of one pack and the beginning of the next one. If you miss one pill, take it as soon as you remember, and you should be fine.
Consider yourself not protected when you miss more than two pills. Avoid having unprotected sex until you are through one pack, including the placebos.
2. Not taking it on time
The pill works wonders if you take it at the perfect timing. Take the pill at the exact same time every day for it to be at its maximum effectiveness—99%.
If you are a forgetful person, pop the pill again as soon as you remember. Continue taking the rest of the pack as usual.
You don’t have to watch it down to the exact second. Set a reminder to take your pills every day around the same time to maintain consistent hormone levels.
3. Medications interfere with pills
Antibiotics such as rifampicin or rifabutin and anti-fungal drugs such as griseofulvin, can make the pill less effective.
If you are on any of these medications, make sure to use a backup contraception after finishing the course.
Other forms of medications and supplements may affect the effectiveness of birth control pills as well. These include epilepsy drugs (phenobarbital, phenytoin, and carbamazepine), anti-viral medications used to treat HIV3, or St. John’s wort (an herbal remedy)4.
This is a common risk. If you’re throwing up (either from an illness, infection, or too much alcohol) or are experiencing diarrhoea, use backup contraception.
If you vomit, the pill can come back up, or it may not get fully absorbed into your body. Take another pill as soon as possible shortly after vomiting and take next pill at your usual time.
5. Not starting a new pack immediately
Start a new pack of pills the day after finishing the previous one. If you do not have a new pack yet, consider other contraception methods. Missing a few days between packs can make the pill less effective and possibly lead you to pregnancy.
Use a backup contraceptive method until you have taken the birth control pills for 7 days straight. Otherwise, it is advisable to refrain from any sexual intercourse.
Speak to Your Healthcare Provider
Speak to your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible if you’re concerned about your contraception failing or the possibility of getting pregnant. Early signs of pregnancy include bloating, breast tenderness, light spotting, fatigue, or more frequent urination.
If you do not plan to have a child soon, make sure you take your pills on time to prevent unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.