Medically reviewed by Dr. Julie Graves, MD, MPH, PhD on January 13, 2020
Ideally, you should store your birth control at room temperature, considered to be 77 degrees Fahrenheit or 25 degrees Celsius. Birth control can handle higher or lower temperatures for short periods but should not be exposed to temperatures below 59 F (15 C) or above 86 F (30 C). Extreme temperatures, along with humidity, can damage your birth control and risk its integrity. Using birth control that has been damaged by heat, moisture, or cold can put you at risk of birth control failure and unwanted pregnancy.
How Heat Affects Birth Control
Hormone-based birth contains estrogen and/or progestin, and temperatures higher than 86 F (30 C) can cause changes in the medication’s molecular structure. If this happens, birth control can lose its effectiveness, increasing your pregnancy risk. Because temperatures can change from location to location, plan ahead to keep your medication safe from heat exposure, including sunlight.
Avoid storing or keeping birth control:
- In the trunk of your car.
- In checked airline baggage.
- Where it might be exposed to direct sunlight.
How Humidity Affects Birth Control
Like heat, humidity can break down some of the components in your birth control, making it less effective. While the bathroom medicine cabinet might seem like the most convenient place to store your birth control, showers can elevate temperatures and increase humidity levels. The kitchen is another room where heat and moisture from appliances can expose medications to temperature and humidity fluctuations. Store birth control out of the bathroom and kitchen and in a place where it will stay dry and away from sunlight.
How Cold Affects Birth Control
Extreme cold temperatures can also cause your birth control to break down and lose its efficacy. While most birth control can tolerate cold temperatures for short periods, it’s best not to expose it to temperatures below 59 F. When choosing a storage spot, consider the time of year and where you live. Avoid leaving birth control in your car, especially overnight, and don’t store it in the refrigerator.
How Shipping Affects Birth Control
Since birth control remains effective in higher or lower temperatures for short periods, it is safe to ship. At Nurx, birth control is sent by USPS 1-3 day priority shipping for all orders to ensure that the medication is delivered quickly and safely. Your pills remain under controlled temperatures until they are dispensed from the pharmacy. We have documentation from manufacturers that some pills can withstand temperatures as high as 104 F for up to 4 days and temperatures as low as 5 F for as long as 12 months.
If you’re a NuvaRing user, the ring remains under refrigeration until it is dispensed from the pharmacy as refrigeration extends its shelf life. Once the ring is dispensed, it is good for 4 months out of refrigeration and our partner pharmacies ship in packaging to protect the medication itself from external factors. Outside of direct refrigeration, it can withstand brief excursions to temperatures above 86 degrees F.
We encourage our patients to be diligent about following the tracking links we send when a package is dispensed and subscribe to delivery updates so that a package containing birth control does not sit in a mailbox for an extended amount of time.
Birth Control Method Temperature Guide
Here’s a handy guide to ideal storage temperatures for various forms of birth control. Remember there is some room for temperature fluctuations as long as your medication doesn’t remain at lower or higher temps for extended periods. The temperature scale for storing most birth control is from 59 F (15 C) to 86 F (30 C).
Always follow your Nurx™ medical provider’s instructions for storing your birth control, and read package inserts to learn about your chosen method’s specific temperature requirements:
- Birth control pills: Temperatures apply to all hormonal medications, including extended cycle, triphasic, and progestin-only birth control pills. Store at 68 to 77 F (20 to 25 C).
- Birth control patch: Xulane needs to be stored at optimal temperatures to remain effective. Do not refrigerate or freeze the birth control patch, and always keep it in its original pouch. Store at 68 to 77 F (20 to 25 C).
- Birth control ring: NuvaRing is typically refrigerated before it is distributed to patients but should be stored at room temperature before insertion. You can store NuvaRing for up to four months at 77 F (25 C ).
- Birth control shot: To make sure your shot is effective, do not refrigerate it. Keep it at room temperature (77 F) prior to injection.
- Condoms: Heat and moisture can break condoms down. Store them in a dry environment no warmer than 100 F (38 C) or cooler than 32 F (0 C).
Best Practices for Storing Your Birth Control
Follow storage and handling guidelines
Your birth control method will come with an insert or packaging that contains storage information, including ideal temperature conditions — follow these closely. Store birth control in a cool, dry location that is out of direct sunlight and the reach of children and pets. If you have any questions about the safe handling of your medication, our team here at Nurx can help.
If the power goes out
Don’t worry if the power goes out for a few hours, because birth control is hardy enough to withstand lower or higher temperatures for short periods. If you experience power outages lasting more than a few hours, however, use an insulated grocery bag or cooler (without ice) to keep your birth control’s temperature consistent.
Whether you’re going out of town for a few days or you’re getting ready for a long vacation, consider what that means for your birth control and its temperature requirements. Take only what you’ll need, and consider using birth-control-friendly travel containers that can keep it dry and safe from sunlight. If you’re traveling by car, keep your medication in the glove box rather than the trunk. If you’re flying, keep your birth control in your carry-on bag rather than your checked luggage to avoid overheating.
Taking it out of its original packaging
If you prefer to put your medication in a container other than its original packaging, make sure the new container can meet temperature ideals. Containers can be as stylish or functional as you like; just make sure they will keep your medication dry, cool, and out of direct sunlight.
Birth control pills that have been exposed to extreme temperatures might show telltale signs of compromise. These signs can include:
- Pills that stick together.
- Changes in color.
- Changes in odor.
- Chipped pills.
- Pills softer or harder than normal.
Also, know and check the package’s expiration date.
Play it Safe
Exposure to temperature changes won’t make your medication toxic and, technically, you can continue taking your birth control as scheduled. If your birth control has been exposed to extreme temperatures for an extended period, regardless of whether it shows signs of heat or moisture damage, it’s a good idea to consider using backup birth control such as a condom until you start your next pack of pills or change your patch.