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- There are certain things that can be making your various forms of birth control less effective or entirely ineffective without you even realizing it.
- Natural, oil-based lubricants can break down condoms, making them less effective at preventing certain sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy.
- Certain gastrointestinal issues may cause your oral contraceptives to be less effective at preventing pregnancy.
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Many people rely on a variety of birth control methods in order to prevent pregnancy. Unfortunately, there are certain things that can decrease the effectiveness of your birth control method of choice – sometimes without you even realizing it.
INSIDER spoke to medical experts to identify some of the most common things that can make birth control not work as well or not work at all.
Here are some things that could be making your birth control less effective.
Gastrointestinal problems can interfere with an oral contraceptive’s effectiveness
“Gastrointestinal problems such as chronic inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea, or vomiting can influence the absorption of the pills in the gut, decreasing the effectiveness of oral birth control,” Dr. Tsvetelina Velikova of MedAlertHelp told INSIDER.
According to Healthline, oral contraceptives usually absorb into your system within two hours. However, if you’ve experienced gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting or diarrhea, especially directly after taking a pill or over the course of several days, you may want to use a backup method of birth control until your symptoms have resolved or your healthcare provider instructs you otherwise.
St. John’s Wort, a plant commonly found in certain herbal supplements, can make your hormonal birth control ineffective
St. John’s Wort is a flowering plant and a popular herbal remedy that is sometimes used to treat individuals who are suffering from depression or suffering from anxiety. But consuming this plant may decrease the effectiveness of your hormonal contraceptives (like birth control pills or injections) and other prescription medications.
St. John’s Wort induces liver enzymes that can break down oral contraceptives, causing the body to quickly metabolize most medications. When hormonal birth control is metabolized too quickly, it may not be as effective at preventing pregnancy.
Some antibiotics have been shown to interfere with the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives
Although not all antibiotics will make your hormonal birth control ineffective, there are certain ones to keep an eye out for.
Dr. Chirag Shah, an emergency medical physician, told INSIDER that rifampin, a medication commonly used in the management of tuberculosis, “interacts significantly with oral contraceptives and, in some cases, can render birth control ineffective.”
Rifampin works by increasing the enzymes in your body and so does the medication rifabutin. According to the National Health Service (NHS), both of these enzyme-inducing medications can make your hormonal birth control less effective.
If you are concerned about a medication’s impact on your birth control, you may want to talk to your doctor whenever you are prescribed an antibiotic, especially rifampin or rifabutin. You may also want to use a secondary method of non-oral, non-hormonal birth control (such as a condom) to prevent pregnancy while you’re taking these antibiotics.
Natural lubricants may damage condoms
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Using a natural, oil-based lubricant during sex may make barrier birth control methods like condoms less reliable.
To ensure that your latex condom stays in working order, you may want to try to use a water-based lubricant instead of an oil-based one.
If you want to use oil-based lubricants, you can try using non-latex condoms, such as condoms made from lambskin, as they can protect against pregnancy even if used with natural, fat-based lubricants.
Some medications can negatively impact the efficacy of your birth control
Certain medications can render hormonal birth control methods, such as pills, patches, injections, and certain IUDs, less effective, according to the NHS.
Antidepressants and diabetic medications “are known to reduce the effectiveness of contraceptive pills. Anti-HIV medications can do the same,” reproductive endocrinologist and fertility physician Dr. Janelle Luk told INSIDER.
You may want to talk to your doctor about your birth control options if you’re currently taking or plan on taking any other medications or supplements.
Not taking oral contraceptives each day at the same time can reduce their effectiveness
If you’re relying on a birth control pill to prevent pregnancy, sticking to a consistent pill-taking routine is important.
“For oral contraceptives, the most important thing is to take the pill every day at the same time. Missing one pill, especially if it is the first pill in the pack, increases the risk of getting pregnant,” Dr. Tsvetelina Velikova of MedAlertHelp told INSIDER.
If you do miss a pill, you may want to speak to your healthcare provider and use another form of birth control, such as a condom while you figure out your next steps. Planned Parenthood’s website also has a tool that can help you identify which steps to take if you have missed a pill based on the brand of oral contraceptive you’re taking.
Putting condoms on incorrectly can make them more likely to fail
When used properly, condoms can be an effective way to prevent pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections. But how you apply and use condoms can make a big difference in how effective they actually are.
“Take precautions to not tear condoms with your hand, piercings, nails, or other sharp objects. Mistakes such as unrolling a condom before putting it on, leaving no space at the tip, failing to remove air inside the condom, using an inside-out condom, and failing to unroll [it] all the way are surprisingly common,” explained Dr. Velikova.
Putting on a condom a bit too late (after unprotected penetration has already occurred) or removing a condom too early can also decrease its effectiveness. In addition, condoms should not be used if they are expired and each condom should be used only once.
Improperly storing condoms and birth control pills can make them less effective
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Birth control pills should be treated like any other medication and stored according to package instructions. In most cases, this means keeping them away from direct light, heat, and moisture.
Condoms should be stored out of direct sunlight and kept at room temperature, according to the CDC. Condoms that have been kept somewhere above 100 degrees Fahrenheit or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit may be rendered less effective than normal.
You should also avoid keeping condoms in your wallet because friction can cause a condom to deteriorate.
There is a chance that an improperly placed IUD can fail
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are small, T-shaped devices that are placed inside the uterus to protect against pregnancy. IUDs are normally an effective and low-maintenance birth control option, but incorrect placement and a few other factors can impact how well they work.
Dr. Velikova explained to INSIDER that an IUD that has been poorly positioned in your uterus or partially expelled from your uterus may be ineffective. In addition, if you have an abnormal uterine shape, your IUD may fail to prevent pregnancy.