Can I take antibiotics while on birth control?
It seems everybody knows someone who has a story about a surprise pregnancy that happened while the woman was taking antibiotics. If it didn’t happen to you, maybe it happened to your friend’s sister’s second cousin. Or maybe you saw it on a television show. But is it true? Can you REALLY get pregnant because you’re taking antibiotics while on birth control pills?
Antibiotics and the Pill: It’s Complicated
The official word from the National Institutes of Health is “no.” The NIH says antibiotics have not been proven to render birth control pills ineffective. But it says there is an exception: Refampin, which is an antibiotic often prescribed for tuberculosis, has been proven to reduce the effectiveness of the pill. Texas Children’s Hospital reports all other reports about antibiotics blocking the pill’s effectiveness are common myths.”
Mixed Messages About Taking Antibiotics While on the Pill
But, what about that phrase, “not been proven?” There are plenty of anecdotal cases of women like your friend’s sister’s second cousin who claim they got pregnant because antibiotics led to pill failure. Anecdotes are individual people’s accounts, not scientific studies, but all that anecdotal evidence has led some doctors and pharmacists to caution their female patients about the possible risk of pregnancy when taking antibiotics.
On its website, The Food and Drug Administration warns the antibiotic Doxycycline, can make birth control pills less effective. It recommends women use an alternative form of birth control while taking Doxycycline. And Walgreen’s website has this warning: “Cases of contraceptive failure associated with oral antibiotics have been reported, but are not well-documented. To help women avoid pregnancy while taking an antibiotic - and for at least one week afterward - doctors generally recommend they use a condom or spermicide as a back-up method of birth control in addition to remaining on birth control pills. If you are taking both antibiotics and birth control pills, be sure to check with your doctor about how long you should continue to use a back-up method.”
Antibiotics and Birth Control Pill Failure
Here is something else to think about: the pill can also fail if you are experiencing vomiting and/or diarrhea, which may be the case if you are ill. Mayo Clinic researchers suggest using another birth control method if you’ve been sick with a stomach bug.
Other Drugs That Can Cause Birth Control Pill Failure
Researchers at GoodRx.com report other drugs that can contribute to birth control pill failure include barbiturates, some anticonvulsants and some HIV medications. The over-the-counter herbal supplement St. John’s Wort may also affect The Pill’s effectiveness.
The bottom line: Most antibiotics are not proven to reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills, but that doesn’t mean it never happens. A call to your doctor or pharmacist about your specific case certainly can’t hurt, and neither can using a backup birth control method while you’re taking antibiotics.
Stay healthy, everyone!!