If you’re prescribed an antibiotic, you may worry the drug could cause your birth control to fail. Here’s the good news about antibiotics and birth control.
While there are many forms of birth control, from condoms to IUDs, birth control pills, also known as oral contraceptives, are one of the most popular. Since approved in the1960s, the prescription medication has increased in usage, especially after the original high-dose estrogen version linked to blood clots and other health problems was replaced with safer formulations.
For most women, birth control pills are a reliable and easy to use form of birth control. But what if you need to take another common medication ― an antibiotic ― along with the pill?
Concern that antibiotics and birth control pills combined could result in an unplanned pregnancy have been raised in the past, an idea still sometimes spread on the internet as truth. Fortunately, studies show this is more myth than reality.
What research shows about antibiotics and birth control
For many years, it wasn’t unusual for doctors and pharmacists to advise women who were taking birth control pills, and who needed a course of antibiotics, to take extra precautions to avoid pregnancy. For example, women on “the pill” were warned antibiotics could make birth control pills ineffective, so it was best to use spermicide or condoms while taking their additional prescription medication.
However, it turns out this was based on an excess of caution. Now researchers have established antibiotics ― with only one rarely prescribed exception ― don’t impact birth control pills.
In order to search for evidence of any link between antibiotics and birth control involving hormones, a research team from the Medical College of South Carolina and the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School analyzed findings from multiple studies that looked at antibiotics and forms of birth control containing hormones,including contraceptive pills, emergency contraceptive pills, and the vaginal ring (a plastic ring placed inside your vagina that releases estrogen and progesterone to prevent pregnancy). The antibiotics studied included ampicillin, ciprofloxacin, clarithromycin, doxycycline, metronidazole, ofloxacin, roxithromycin, and temafloxacin.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, revealed the pregnancy preventing ovulation suppression caused by hormonal contraceptives was not impacted by any of the commonly prescribed antibiotics. What’s more, no breakthrough bleeding was observed in any of the studies analyzed, either.
There is however, one antibiotic that can make birth control pills ineffective Rifampin, an antibiotic in the rifamycin family of drugs used to treat tuberculosis.
“Evidence from clinical and pharmacokinetic outcomes studies does not support the existence of drug interactions between hormonal contraception and non-rifamycin antibiotics,” the study authors concluded.
Always talk to your doctor before taking any drugs
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) also affirm antibiotics and birth control pills are not problematic (unless you are being treated for TB with a rifamycin drug).
But that doesn’t mean that all prescription drugs, or even over-the-counter supplements, are safe to take with birth control pills. For example, the HHS warns some anti-seizure medications, and supplements (such as St. John’s wort) may make the pill less effective. So, talk to your doctor and pharmacist if you are taking birth control pills and prescribed other medications or considering taking herbal supplements.
In addition, remember that no form of birth control is 100 percent effective, including birth control pills. However, the risk of pregnancy is extremely small if you take the pill correctly: taking it every day at about the same time, according to the HHS.
October 22, 2019
Janet O’Dell RN