Are My Antibiotics Messing with my Birth Control?

Graphic designed by Blossom Onunekwu.

Graphic designed by Blossom Onunekwu.

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It’s that time of the year again. People are sneezing into their hands without washing them. People don’t get the flu shot. People forget to use gloves while preparing food.

And if you’re unlucky, you just might get sick yourself and need to be on bed rest for a few days. You might not have the flu, but you might take other medications and/or antibiotics to get rid of that pressing chest cold, that numbing migraine or that itchy strep throat. With all these medications, will they hurt your birth control efficiency?

In short: it depends.

The birth control pill is designed to be taken once a day to prevent pregnancy. And it does so by preventing ovulation, or for everyone that fell asleep during anatomy, the release of an egg.

There’s a common belief that antibiotics and birth control don’t mix well because antibiotics lower the efficiency of the birth control pill. So that means you can flush your antibiotics down the toilet and contaminate every single person when you’re sick, right? Not quite.

Not all antibiotics have followed that pattern. In fact, science declares that only one antibiotic, rifampin (an antibiotic used to fight tuberculosis and meningitis) can severely tamper with birth control medicine, according to the Canadian Journal of Infectious Disease.

So you might not have meningitis or tuberculosis. But we’re still on the hook. Antifungals like griseofulvin and antiretrovirals (which some people take for the flu) can also weaken your birth control’s effectiveness, according to Pubmed.gov. Although doctors say it’s a low chance that these other medications will affect the efficiency, it’s still good to take precautions.

And of course, some illnesses and even medications might have symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea that prevent the birth control from being fully absorbed in our system.

How can I prevent pregnancy while taking meds?

First things first: make sure your doctor knows you’re taking birth control. In fact, he/she most likely will ask what other medications you are taking before prescribing you any medication.

Next: double up on the protection. If you are having sex, don’t let the birth control pill be your only line of defense. Encourage your partner to use a condom or if you’ve got the money, spermicide. But don’t stop taking that birth control.

It might be hard to keep track of your grades, your finances, your health and your birth control all at once, but it’s all a part of growing up. Be mindful, listen to your body and of course get the rest you deserve when you are sick.

 

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