Experiencing an allergic reaction to birth control is rare, but it is possible. In general, bad reactions to medications are unlikely to be caused by allergies. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology reports that only about 5 to 10 percent of adverse reactions to all medications are caused by allergies. When it comes to birth control, less than one in a thousand women experience an allergic reaction.
All that said, allergic reactions to birth control do happen, and if you suspect you’re experiencing one stop taking your birth control and contact your medical provider. Read about the potential symptoms and learn about alternative forms of contraception you can use if you develop a reaction.
Forms of birth control which create a physical barrier between the sperm and the egg may potentially cause an allergic reaction when the product comes into direct contact with the skin. Barrier methods of birth control include:
- Male condoms
- Female condoms
- Cervical caps
- Contraceptive sponges
The materials used to make barrier methods of birth control can cause redness, burning, itching, and other allergy symptoms. They’re most commonly associated with latex condoms since about 1 percent of people in the U.S. have a latex allergy. If a barrier method contains spermicide (a chemical that kills sperm) for increased effectiveness you may experience a reaction to the chemicals in the spermicide.
Fortunately, there are other products that can be used if a barrier method causes an allergic reaction. When a latex condom is not an option, you can use condoms made from polyurethane instead. You can also look for products made without spermicide if the substance triggers an allergic reaction.
Hormonal Birth Control
The hormones in hormonal birth control methods are either estrogen and progestin or progestin-only. Few people have an allergic reaction to these substances since they are so similar to hormones that are already found in the body.
But even though allergic reactions are extremely rare, it’s important to understand the potential side effects when selecting the right contraceptive for you. Keep in mind that should serious symptoms develop (such as hives, swelling of the tongue or throat, and difficulty breathing or swallowing), you should remove or stop taking your birth control, if possible, and seek medical attention immediately.
Birth Control Pill
Like all pills, birth control pills are made with inactive ingredients or dyes which may cause an allergic reaction. Since there are so many different brands and formulations available, a doctor can help you find a pill that does not contain any ingredients that could cause you to have an allergic reaction. For example, it may be as easy as switching from Tri-Lo-Sprintec to Introvale if you have a reaction to the former.
Birth Control Patch
Because the birth control patch is placed directly on the skin, there is a possibility that the patch materials could cause an allergic reaction. If you’ve tried placing the patch on different parts of your body and it continues to cause skin irritation or other allergy symptoms, you may want to try a method of birth control that doesn’t come into contact with the skin, such as birth control pills.
Birth Control Shot
As with all medical injections, there is a risk of an allergic reaction when you get an injection of Depo-subQ Provera 104 or another brand of birth control shot. Symptoms can include rash, itching, dizziness, and difficulty breathing. Switch to a different shot brand or another method of birth control, such as the ring, if the shot causes an allergic reaction.
Birth Control Implant
Anesthetics and antiseptics are applied when a birth control implant is placed, so tell your doctor if you have an allergy to any of these substances. After the implant is placed, it’s normal to have some pain, bleeding, or bruising at the insertion site, but if you have an adverse reaction like a rash or itching you may need to have the implant removed and use a different method instead.
Birth Control Ring
NuvaRing (also known as a vaginal ring) may cause an allergic reaction due to the material used to make the product. The tissue inside the vagina can become irritated, and (although it’s very unlikely) you could experience a systemic reaction with symptoms that may include hives, swelling of the face, lips, tongue and/or throat, and difficulty breathing or swallowing — if you experience a severe reaction remove the ring and seek medical attention immediately. There’s no other vaginal ring option, so if you’re allergic to NuvaRing, consider trying another method like the patch or the pill.
Similar to the ring, a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) might contain material that could cause an allergic reaction or internal irritation. Those who are allergic to it can try the copper IUD as an alternative. Since copper is already present in the body, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would be allergic to the material used to make this type of IUD.
If you experience any allergy symptoms when using birth control, talk to your doctor to discuss whether you need to find an alternative contraceptive brand or method. Use a backup birth control method if you must stop using yours due to an allergic reaction. If symptoms become severe or life-threatening, seek emergency medical help right away.
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