The Myth of Birth Control and Antibiotics

You may have heard that antibiotics can make birth control pills less effective if you take them simultaneously. Some antibiotic information sheets warn that antibiotics can make birth control pills less effective. Is there any evidence to support this claim or is it a myth?

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How Birth Control Pills work

Birth control pills are a type of hormonal contraception that is used to prevent pregnancy. The two hormones estrogen (and progesterone) are found in most birth control pills. This prevents the release of eggs from your ovary or ovulation. The minipill is one example of a birth control pill that thickens cervical mucus. This makes it harder for sperm from reaching an unfertilized embryo.

The connection between antibiotics and birth control pills

Rifampin is the only antibiotic that has been shown to affect birth control pills. This drug is used for treating tuberculosis, and other bacterial infections. This medication can cause a decrease in hormone levels when taken with birth control pills. This can cause ovulation to be prevented. This means that your birth control is less effective. Rifampin can also reduce hormone levels in your birth control patch or vaginal rings.

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The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published a study that concluded hormone levels are not affected by the use of the following antibiotics in conjunction with birth control pills.

  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Clarithromycin
  • Doxycycline
  • metronidazole
  • Roxithromycin
  • Theraploxacin

Birth control may be less effective if you take other drugs, such as

  • Some anti-HIV protease inhibitors
  • some anti-seizure medications
  • The antifungal drug griseofulvin

Birth control pills can make some drugs less effective such as blood pressure medication and analgesics. Birth control pills can increase the effects of tranquilizers, bronchodilators and antidepressants.

Side effects of birth control pills and antibiotics

Unfortunately, there is not much scientific evidence on the side effects of using antibiotics in combination with birth control pills. The side effects of both drugs could be similar, and may get worse if they are combined. These side effects could include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in appetite
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

Side effects can vary depending on who is taking the antibiotic and what class they are. Some people experience side effects from antibiotics and birth control pills.

Although there is some evidence that antibiotics can reduce the effectiveness of birthcontrol pills, there could be other factors that cause birth control failure. It is possible to not take your birthcontrol pills on time, or skip some pills if you are ill. If you’re vomiting, the pill may not be absorbed properly. It may seem like antibiotics are the problem, but it could be just a coincidence.

How to correctly take birth control pills

Birth control pills can be used to prevent pregnancy when taken as directed. The majority of birth control pills can be taken daily for 21 days and then stopped after seven days. Some pills can be taken for up to 28 days, while others may need to be taken for up to 91 days. Different colors may indicate different levels. You may find pills without hormones on some days. These pills are meant to help you keep the habit of taking your medications.

When to take your pills will be determined by your doctor. This is typically the first Sunday of your menstrual period or the first day. It is important to take your pills every day at the same time. Your chances of getting pregnant increase if you don’t take your medication regularly.

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Choose the right birth control method for you

Birth control pills are only one option. You also have the following options:

  • Pills
  • Photos
  • Rings
  • Condoms
  • Diaphragms

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests asking these questions to help you decide which option is right for you.

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The options when it comes to birthcontrol pills can be overwhelming. Every woman is not a candidate for every type. Combination birth control pills might not be the best choice for you if you are older than 35, smoke, or have had a history of stroke or heart disease. Minipills might not be the right choice if you have undiagnosed uterine bleeding or breast cancer.