Doing These 4 Things When You're On The Pill Are Increasing Your Risk Of Pregnancy

by Annie Foskett

Last weekend, a married friend told me she was ready to have a baby. I, three Malbecs in, did not disguise my disgust. (Sorry, friend. I'll still babysit!) The fact that I write about dating on the internet might have spoiled this, but: I am not ready to grow a human. If you're like me, here's a very spooky fact: Certain things increase your chances of pregnancy, even if you're on birth control.

Eek. Or, AHH! (Cue the Psycho shower scene music.) You may be thinking, "But isn't the pill the antidote to babies in the belly?" Mostly, but it's imperfect. And that's why I have an I.U.D., suckers! (JK, birth control shame is uncool because in all seriousness, everyone's body is different.) The pill is effective, but it's not a 100 percent guarantee that you won't get pregnant.

In fact, the only way you can be sure your womb stays vacant is by practicing abstinence. If you aren't having sex, you can't get pregnant. Although, one time in high school, despite still having my v-card, the combination of my hypochondria and my having internet access led me to believe that I was hella preggers. (I was not; I had gas pains.)

Since abstinence is a bummer, and many of us would like to enjoy the euphoria of a nice, big O because it's natural and healthy, I'm going to stop being such an abstinence-demogorgon. You can absolutely practice safe sex on birth control, but there are a few things to be aware of that can increase your risk of getting big "P" on the little "p". Here they are:

1. You Don't Take Your Pill Regularly

According to Planned Parenthood, when used correctly, the pill is 99 percent effective. However, "when it comes to real life, the pill is about 91 percent effective because it can be hard to be perfect. So in reality, nine out of 100 pill users get pregnant each year." Not taking the pill regularly is the main reason people get pregnant on birth control.

Human error — gets us every time. The reason I have an I.U.D. is partially because of my mom's history with hormonal birth control and breast cancer, but mostly because I'm forgetful. I have to put alarms on my phone for everything from flossing to remembering which nights the garbage goes out. (I've lived in my apartment for six years.)

If alarms work for you, great. If not, set a time to take the pill that's consistent with your daily schedule like first thing in the morning, or right after you brush your teeth at night. Again, depending on your weekend imbibing habits, these can still be tricky to maintain.

2. You Got Sick And Didn't Take Another Pill

To be clear, I'm not talking about the common cold. I'm talking about full-on food poisoning or otherwise aggressive illness. According to Planned parenthood, "vomiting or [having] diarrhea for more than 48 hours may reduce how well the pill prevents pregnancy"

This makes sense, since when you are that sick, you're expelling the contents of your stomach. (Gross much?) According to the Mayo Clinic, if you puke once, chances are that you're in the clear, but if you've vomited within two hours of taking your pill or are sick for two days, you should proceed as though you've missed your pill. Use condoms next time you have sex. (Also, champ move that you're recovered and are getting right back to business.)

3. You've Just Started Taking It And Didn't Account For A Waiting Period

When you first start taking the pill, there is a period of time it takes before it gets into your body and starts working. According to Planned Parenthood, "you can take your first birth control pill any day of the month, but you may need a backup birth control method (like condoms) for the first seven days." Sounds about right.

Now, there are two different kinds of pills: combination pills (COCs) and progestin-only pills (mini pills). Talk to your doctor about which type of pill you are taking to find out when it becomes effective. Combination pills are effective immediately if you start them within five days after your period starts, but if you begin taking them at any other time, they will not begin working for seven days.

4. You're Also Taking These Medicines

Planned Parenthood also says there are certain medicines and herbal supplements that may contribute to the pill not working as well. These include: the antibiotic Rifampin (other antibiotics do not make the pill less effective), the antifungal Griseofulvin (other antifungals do not make the pill less effective), certain HIV medicines, certain anti-seizure medicines, and the herb St. John’s Wort. "If you’re taking any of these, use condoms as a backup method," PP adds.

Of course, speaking to your nurse or doctor can help you decide if there’s any reason the birth control pill won’t work well for you. Birth control, as discussed, can be very important for some of us not looking to settle down and pop little ones out, so it's important to do your research.

When in doubt, use a condom. Did you forget your pill a couple days at that wedding you went to in Jamaica (lucky you)? Then use condoms for a bit and get back on track before going glove-less. Additionally, if you're on the pill and you're not using condoms, make sure that you and your partner get tested regularly, because getting an STD would suck.

Safe sex is the best sex because when you're not worrying about future genital worts or future genetic matches in the form of children, you can relax and enjoy the ride. I know, for all of my talk about not wanting to be a mom, here I go: Safety first, kids! It's required.

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