If you get pregnant while on birth control, stop taking it immediately

28% of Americans use birth control pills to prevent pregnancy.

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28% of Americans use birth control pills to prevent pregnancy.
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  • About 9% of people who take birth control pills will become pregnant each year.
  • If you get pregnant while using hormonal birth control like the pill or an IUD, it is important to stop using it as soon as possible.
  • If you stop it early enough you shouldn’t have complications during pregnancy or experience damage to your health or your baby’s.
  • This article was reviewed by Jane van Dis, MD, a board-certified OB-GYN and medical director of the Maven Clinic.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In the US, nearly half of pregnancies happen by accident. Many occur because couples aren’t using contraception. However, nearly 50% of unintended pregnancies occur because the birth control failed or the couple used it incorrectly.

If you get pregnant while using hormonal birth control like the pill or an IUD, it is important to stop using it as soon as possible. If you stop early on in pregnancy, there is a good chance you won’t have any complications.

How birth control works

Many birth control methods use sex hormones to trigger changes in your body that prevent pregnancy. Elevated levels of hormones such as progestin, either alone or combined with estrogen, can prevent ovulation as well as thicken the tissue lining in your uterus so eggs can’t join together with sperm or implant in the uterine wall.

The most common form of hormonal birth control is the pill, which 28% of Americans use to prevent pregnancy. Other methods that use hormones include vaginal rings, patches, subcutaneous implants, injections, and some IUDs.

What happens if you take birth control pills while pregnant

According to the CDC, nine% of people who take birth control pills will become pregnant each year. That’s because “although the effectiveness of birth control pills is very high when used perfectly (99.7%), the average woman will occasionally miss doses,” says Dr. Yvonne Butler Tobah, MD, an OB-GYN at the Mayo Clinic.

Because accidental pregnancy is fairly common from failed or misused hormonal birth control, many developing embryos may be exposed to high levels of progestin and/or estrogen early on in pregnancy.

However, research indicates that this will not cause major problems for your health or the health of your embryo. For example, a 2016 study published in BMJ found that there was no link between taking birth control pills while pregnant and having a baby with birth defects.

What happens if you get pregnant with an IUD

If you get pregnant with an IUD, it’s important to see a doctor and have it removed as soon as possible. Because there is an increased risk that you will have, what’s called, an ectopic pregnancy, says Butler Tobah.

Ectopic pregnancies happen when the fertilized egg implants itself in the fallopian tube instead of in the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies can be life-threatening and may require surgery as soon as possible.

Even if you have a normal pregnancy with an IUD, it may be important to have the device removed within the first trimester of pregnancy, if possible. Talk to a doctor about your options.

“Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you think you might be pregnant, even while on a form of birth control,” Butler Tobah says, adding that you can also start by taking an at-home pregnancy test.

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