Your relationship with your birth control is one of the most important ones in your life. After all, your birth control is (obviously) the reason why you're able to have sex without worrying about getting pregnant, not to mention it might just make your daily life easier by moderating the severity of your period. But all of these benefits are only possible if you understand your birth control well enough to allow it to do its job, which means knowing what medications mess with birth control, for one thing.
As I'm sure you know, there are a lot of different kinds of hormonal birth control on the market, including the IUD and the pill, for example. If you're on the pill, one of the easiest ways to "mess" with your birth control has nothing to do with medication, and everything to do with forgetting or being too lax with when you take it. Missing pills in your birth control pack can completely compromise its efficacy, which is why a hormonal device like an IUD is so popular.
But if you don't have that problem (either because you have another form of birth control, or because you're just plain excellent at taking your pill on time every day), there are still other types of medication to worry about that could mess with your birth control beneath the surface.
Certain antibiotics can interfere with birth control to the point where it's totally ineffective, according to SELF.
However, the outlet explains, plenty of standard antibiotics won't interfere with your birth control. But the sheer fact that it can easily go one way or the other is exactly why it's so important to ask your doctor clearly and directly what the implications are, if any, of any new medication you're adding on top of your usual birth control. For example, Planned Parenthood assures you that most over-the-counter cold and flu medications are totally fine to take with your birth control, and won't interfere with it at all.
On the other hand, SELF notes that rifampicin and rifabutin are two such antibiotics that can get in the way of birth control — but since you're not exactly expected to remember an entire list of medical phrases, it's best to just communicate your concerns directly with your doctor.
Another substance that might get in the way of your birth control pill is something called St. John's wort, which is an herbal supplement commonly used to combat depression and mood disorders, according to ABC News. The reason why the medication sometimes butts heads with birth control, the news outlet reports, is because it can mess with the speed at which your metabolism breaks down the hormones in birth control, and in turn, that might lead to a total failure of the intended hormonal balance the pill is meant to induce for your body.
This brings up another important point, not just for your birth control, but for your overall health: Just because something is natural and can be purchased over the counter, does not necessarily mean it won't interfere with your system or cause harm. St. John's wort may be a totally organic, natural supplement, but it can still interfere with your birth control pill in a huge way.
Additionally, medications that are commonly prescribed to treat epilepsy or bipolar disorder can also lessen the efficacy of the pill, the patch, and even the NuvaRing, according to Bedsider.
These medications include barbiturates, carbamazepine, oxycarbazepine, phenytoin, primidone, topiramate, felbamate, and lamotrigine — again, though, no one expects you to know this information off the top of your head. Generally speaking, the best thing to do is speak directly with your doctor about how your medication will affect your birth control, and whether you should make any changes to either medication to ensure you're as safe and as healthy as can be.
On that note, it's worth mentioning that this relationship can actually go both ways. A prescribed medication can mess with your birth control, and your birth control can screw with your meds, Bedsider reports.
Bottom line: Knowledge is power. The more you know and understand about anything you put in your system, whether it's your birth control, an herbal supplement or a prescription for a chronic or one-time illness, the better off you are.