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Birth Control Pills and Antibiotics: Is It A Dangerous Interaction?

Antibiotics and birth control pills are two different categories of drugs. However, it is believed that some antibiotics can interact with contraceptives, reducing their effectiveness.

Birth Control Pills and Antibiotics

Contraceptives are medications used to prevent pregnancy or conception. The use of such drugs is considered one of the most effective methods of family planning, helping to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Oral contraceptive pills contain estrogen and progesterone hormones that control ovulation. Ovulation is the process of releasing an ovum from the ovary. If ovulation does not occur, fertilization, i.e. conception, also becomes impossible. On the other hand, antibiotics are drugs, the main purpose of which is the destruction of bacteria. In this regard, they are mainly used for the treatment of bacterial infections.

The effects of antibiotics on birth control pills

Over the years, women who used both types of drugs at the same time reported many cases of unexpected pregnancies. For this reason, it is suspected that some antibiotics may be able to reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.

Nevertheless, medical studies conducted to confirm the existence of a possible drug interaction between birth control pills and antibiotics are not enough.

It is believed that some contraceptive pills contain low doses of hormones and therefore their effect on the body can be suppressed by the effects of potent antibiotics.

Some medications, in particular antibiotics, can affect the ability of the liver to break down hormones such as estrogen.

More active cleavage of estrogen, stimulated by antibiotics, can lower the level of this hormone in the body. This, in turn, helps to reduce the effectiveness of contraceptives.

Again, antibiotics can destroy both harmful and beneficial bacteria found in the human intestine. As already mentioned, the liver breaks down estrogen into other chemicals, which then go further along the intestine. In the intestine, these chemicals are converted into active estrogen by intestinal bacteria. In this regard, the effectiveness of oral contraceptives is largely dependent on intestinal bacteria, and their destruction can reduce the effectiveness of these drugs. In addition, some women may experience menstrual irregularities and bleeding taking antibiotics and oral contraceptives at the same time.

Antibiotics that can interact with birth control pills:

  • rifampin;
  • penicillin;
  • amoxicillin;
  • tetracycline;
  • griseofulvin;
  • minocycline;
  • sulfonamide;
  • co-trimoxazole;
  • nitrofurantoin;
  • ampicillin

The drugs other than antibiotics are able to interact with contraceptives. For example, it is believed that the efficacy of oral contraceptives is affected by phenobarbital – a sedative that is used to treat sleep disorders, anxiety and stress.

So, although data to support the assumption that birth control pills are affected by antibiotics is not enough but you’d better be careful. Thus, it is recommended that women who do not want to become pregnant unintentionally should resort to alternative methods of preventing pregnancy when taking antibiotics. This does not mean that you need to stop taking oral contraceptives. It is possible to use both contraceptives and other methods of preventing pregnancy, instead of relying only on oral tablets.

Can you get pregnant when taking birth control pills and antibiotics?

Antibiotics do not have properties that promote pregnancy, so women who want to conceive a child, there is no reason to take an antibiotic to increase their chances of becoming pregnant.

In this case, the contraceptive and antibiotic should not be taken at the same time, as this can interfere with the effectiveness of the daily birth control pill that a woman takes to prevent pregnancy. This is because the antibiotic can interfere with the absorption of the pill. The strength with which this happens depends on the type of antibiotic, daily dose and duration of administration. Although, of course, it is worth talking only about the percentage of probability since recent studies show that the risk of conception while taking birth control pills and antibiotics is quite small.

Women are most at risk of becoming pregnant if they start taking antibiotics early in the period. When antibiotics interact with birth control pills during the first-second week of the cycle, use a backup form of pregnancy prevention during this time, which will reduce the likelihood of conception.

Chances of conception using antibiotics are lower if you take them at the end of the period. However, some experts believe that it will be better to remain very cautious and to avoid unprotected sex before the next period.

A woman who takes antibiotics constantly, however, should always use the barrier method of contraception. Unfortunately, she will not be able to count on pills as a guaranteed means of preventing pregnancy, as long as she combines pills for preventing unwanted pregnancy with antibiotics. Depending on the reasons for the continuous use of medications, the doctor will give advice on the replacement of antibiotics or how to choose another form of contraception.

Advice for women who need to take antibiotics while using oral contraceptives

To prevent pregnancy with the joint taking of birth control pills and antibiotics, it is necessary to use contraceptive methods (condoms or spermicides) during the entire period of taking antibiotics and within the first week after completion of treatment.

There are two types of packages with combined contraceptives: a 21-day package followed by a one-week break and a 28-day package, the last 7 tablets that do not contain hormones. If you are taking antibiotics, then in the case of a 21-day package, a 7-day break should not be done, you need to immediately start the next package. In the case of a 28-day-old package, do not drink 7 inactive tablets (without hormones, they are of a different color), but should immediately switch to active tablets from the following package.

Antibiotics can interact with contraceptive pills, making them less effective. You should use additional contraception during and after antibiotic therapy (at least one more week).

If you take antibiotics for the first seven days of your new package and have had sexual intercourse in the last 5-7 days, you should see a doctor, because you may need emergency contraception since in this case there is the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy.

If you have been prescribed antibiotics for more than two weeks, you may need additional advice. Your doctor must be able to provide it.

How long do you need to wait before getting pregnant after taking birth control pills and antibiotics?

Doctors say that it will be correct to get pregnant not earlier than three months after taking antibiotics. In extreme cases, you’d better try that pregnancy occurred at least during the next menstrual cycle after taking antibiotics.

If a woman becomes pregnant immediately after taking antibiotics, she has a higher risk of spontaneous miscarriage at an early pregnancy. Antibiotics accumulate in the body and are derived from it gradually.

Now you know how antibiotics reduce the effectiveness of hormonal contraception and how you can avoid unwanted pregnancies. Use knowledge in practice and be happy!