Stress Can't Chemically Change Your Birth Control, But Here's How It Can Still Play A Role

by Caroline Burke

Everyone gets stressed; it's totally natural, and pretty much unavoidable to feel it from time to time. But when you're starting to experience chronic and severe forms of stress, it can begin to affect your body in ways you might not even anticipate. And if you're an adult, sexually active woman, it's not totally ridiculous to wonder how stress affects your birth control.

It's safe to say that most of us go through periods of intense stress sometimes, whether it has to do with our professional or personal lives. It's also safe to say that most of us pretty heavily rely on our birth control, and would not be OK with the idea of stress essentially nullifying our forms of contraception. But it kind of makes sense that stress would affect birth control, right?

After all, since stress is a term that describes the physical response your body goes through under situations of duress, it only makes sense that the changes in your body could potentially affect the way you react to things you put into your body, aka your birth control. For example, symptoms like an increased heart rate and heightened levels of the cortisol hormone both have the potential to change the way a medication works in your system.

But let's settle any possible confusion right off the bat: Being stressed out will not chemically disrupt the efficacy of your birth control.

However, that doesn't mean that being stressed out won't have any negative effects on your birth control.

Research has shown that women who are stressed out tend to, on average, wind up with less effective birth control than those who aren't consistently stressed out. Why does this happen, you ask? Because stress can become so overwhelming at times that it actually causes you to stop taking your contraceptive habitually.

In one such study, women who were stressed were more likely to accidentally skip taking a birth control pill than those who weren't.

In other words, being stressed out doesn't directly hurt your contraception, point blank. Instead, it's how your behavior changes when you're stressed out that can get in the way of your contraceptive intentions.

And it's not just stress that can lead to this. Women with depression experience similar issues with taking their contraception regularly, thus putting them at higher risk of an unwanted pregnancy.

Stress is, of course, a constantly oscillating wave. Some days you're a little stressed, some days you're totally fine, and some days you feel like your head is going to explode with all of the things you need to get done.

Feeling stress on occasion is completely normal. But feeling so stressed out or depressed that you can't remember and follow through on the proper regularity of your contraception is definitely not part of a healthy lifestyle.

If you have chronic stress, or frequently experience serious mood dips that keep you from remembering to take your pill, you need to do two things as soon as possible.

First, it's almost definitely in your best interest to seek medical assistance. Stress and depression can take a toll on both your physical and mental health, and you deserve to find treatment that'll help you feel your absolute best.

Secondly, you should probably switch to a different form of birth control than the pill. Frankly, there are too many excellent birth control options covered under most types of health insurance these days for you to be on a prescription that isn't even working effectively. Consider getting the IUD, which requires no thought whatsoever after you have it inserted. That way, you have one less thing to worry about, and you can be sure at all times that you have the lowest risk of pregnancy possible.