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Unexpected Things That Can Mess with the Pill



5 min read

Thinx - Periodical - Unexpected Things That Can Mess with the Pill

by Toni Brannagan | 01/08/2020

While I’m a pretty enthusiastic cheerleader for the IUD, I’m a bigger advocate for people taking the time to find the birth control method that works for them. And for nearly 11 million women, that method is oral contraceptives.

Typically, access to a prescription pill pack requires at least two doctor appointments, but the distribution of non-prescription birth control pills have been rising. I definitely understand wanting to avoid a visit to your gyno (and that co-pay!), but if you take that glossy subway ad up on their offer to deliver BC right to your door, you may be missing out on some important info your doctor could provide (like benefits, risks, harmful drug combos). Remember, knowledge is power! There are soooo many brands on the market these days and *every body* reacts to hormonal birth control differently.

Even if you are regularly visiting your gynecologist (as you should be!), there are facts about birth control methods, that aren’t always communicated. When it comes to pills, there are a few external factors that you might not even think about that could compromise their effectiveness. And not trying to fearmonger here, but just saying — it’s always useful to have backup methods or emergency contraception on-hand if you’re sexually active.

Being mindful of things that could potentially affect the efficacy of that li’l magic pill is an important step in taking control of your body and health.


All medicine can be kinda finicky. Ideally, you should be storing pills somewhere with a stable temperature where they won’t be exposed to heat, air, light, and moisture (all of these elements can make pills less effective). This means the medicine cabinet in your bathroom, the glove compartment in your car, and even your purse are *not* ideal options.

I totally get it — if you work erratic hours, how are you supposed to guarantee you take the pill at the same time every day? Switching up the time when you take the pill might do the trick, but keep in mind that taking your birth control pill at the same-ish time every day is the most important in making them effective. Definitely don’t compromise that, even for super-important work stuff. 

If your schedule is making it impossible for you to store and take your birth control as effectively as possible, it might be time to explore other options with your doctor that better suit your lifestyle. Preferably, the best place to keep your birth control is near your bed, and taking it either right when you wake up or go to sleep.


While most antibiotics will not reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives, certain types can mess with how your body processes hormones when you take your birth control.

You’d think that since antibiotics are so commonly—and casually—prescribed, that this would be common knowledge. But after hearing about it a month or so ago, I have harassed pretty much every birth-control-pill-taking person in my life (and some near-strangers, as I am wont to do), and almost all of them knew someone who unknowingly mixed the pill and antibiotics, and experienced an unwanted pregnancy. 

In general, a lot of medicines mix poorly with oral contraceptives, including some antidepressants, HIV medication, and even some herbal remedies. A good rule of thumb is to consult a doctor *any* time you start a new medication, and always make it clear if you are planning to take two medications together — there’s a reason they ask! 

And, seriously, I know you don’t want to, but pleeeease read the fine print on your pill packs.


I know, *ew*, but this is def important to keep in mind. Depending on how long you’re sick, expelling your pill too quickly can affect how your body absorbs the hormones. And don’t forget about vomiting. Fun stuff.

Bad news for the Kardashians, but this also extends to um, the *effects* of detox teas, so keep that in mind if that’s how you live your life (no judgement). While I’m here, activated charcoal reacts similarly, so that’s another trend you might want to skip — although that trend might already be DOA. 

If you are sick and things are flyin’ from either end (lol can you tell how much I *love* discussing bodily functions that aren’t periods?) for more than 24 hours, you should consider the birth control pill you took as a missed day. Talk to your doctor about what your action plan is for a missed day if you haven’t already — this might be a better conversation to have before necessity requires, BTW. 


Besides the obvious health risks of smoking, they can mess with your ability to stay baby-free while on the pill. Cigarettes lower the efficacy of oral contraceptives because they affect your body’s estrogen levels.

If you are a smoker, this is a pretty good excuse to quit, right? 

Smoking while you’re on the pill also puts you at a higher risk for heart attacks and other health issues, so it’s definitely not something you should keep from your doctor — together, you can find a birth control that works for how you choose to live your life.

Have you heard about other random things that can mess with the pill, or another form of birth control? Like that whole grapefruit thing? (TL;DR: Unproven.) Share away in the comments below.

Toni Brannagan is a writer and was the former Copy and Content Manager at Thinx.

by Toni Brannagan

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