No, alcohol does not affect your birth control’s effectiveness. It can have other side effects, however, that can increase your risk of birth control failure. Here are some things to consider when combining alcohol and birth control.
How Alcohol Can Affect Your Birth Control
While alcohol does not affect how the pill, patch, ring, shot, or other birth control methods work, it can have indirect effects on your chances of getting pregnant. Reasons for this include:
- Forgetting to take your birth control. If you’ve been drinking heavily, you might forget to take your birth control at the correct time. This is most likely if you’re on the pill, which loses its efficacy if you don’t take it at the same time every day. The progestin-only pills, in particular, must be taken within the same three-hour time span every day to provide pregnancy protection.
- Becoming more intoxicated than normal. Birth control hormones can change the rate at which your body metabolizes alcohol. This is because your liver is working to process both the hormones and the alcohol. As a result, you might become more intoxicated faster and remain so longer than you would normally, increasing your chances of forgetting to take your birth control or using protection during sex.
- Vomiting. If you drink to the point that you become sick, your birth control might not work. This is most likely if you vomit within two hours of taking the pill, before your body has had a chance to absorb the necessary hormones to prevent ovulation and fertilization.
How to Prevent Birth Control Failure When Drinking
If you know you’re going to be drinking, you can take steps to make sure your birth control continues working. These might include:
- Planning ahead. If you know you’ll be drinking, carry a form of backup birth control, such as condoms, and let your partner know you’d like to use it, just to be safe.
- Setting reminders to take your pill. Set an alarm on your phone or other smart device to remind you to take your pill at the appropriate time. This can be particularly useful if you typically take your pill in the morning and don’t want to risk sleeping in too late.
- Taking your pill in the middle of the day. Set your schedule so you always take your birth control in the middle of the day, when you’ll be less likely to forget to take it.
- Using backup birth control if needed. If by accident you miss taking your birth control pill, there’s a chance you could begin ovulating. If this happens, use a barrier protection method, such as condoms, during sex.
- Taking another pill after vomiting. If alcohol causes you to become physically sick within two hours of taking your birth control pill, take another pill right away.
While these habits will help reduce your chances of becoming pregnant, they won’t prevent you from getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Only condoms can prevent STI spread.
What if You Forget to Take Your Birth Control While Drinking?
If you have sex when you’ve forgotten to take your birth control or use a barrier method, such as condoms, you can take an emergency contraceptive to prevent an unintended pregnancy. Options include:
- The morning-after pill: You can take one of several emergency contraceptives known as the morning-after pill within the appropriate time frame. You can take Plan B One-Step within three days of having sex, Ella within five days of having sex, or My Way within 72 hours of having sex.
- Copper IUD: You can have your medical provider insert a copper IUD within five days of having sex. The copper ions that these devices release are not only toxic to sperm but might also prevent embryo implantation.
The copper IUD is a slightly more effective form of emergency contraceptive than the morning-after pill. However, it’s more expensive and requires making an appointment with your local medical provider. The pills you can simply buy over the counter, with the exception of Ella, which requires a prescription. You can talk to your Nurx™ healthcare provider about which option is best for you.
How to Choose the Right Birth Control for Your Lifestyle
You can choose from a variety of birth control methods to prevent pregnancy. Each one works a little differently and must be taken at different intervals. Your options include:
- Pill: The pill, whether containing a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin or just progestin, is 91%-99% effective. You must take it every day.
- Patch: The patch is applied directly to your skin, where it emits a steady flow of hormones. It’s upwards of 91% effective, and you must replace it once a week.
- Ring: This vaginal ring remains in your vagina, releasing hormones for three weeks at a time, at which point you must take it out and a week later replace it. It’s at least 91% effective.
- Shot: Depending on the brand, you or your healthcare provider can inject the birth control shot into your upper thigh or stomach area every three months. It’s at least 94% effective.
- IUD: Intrauterine devices can be placed in your uterus by a medical provider and, depending on the brand and whether they’re hormonal or non-hormonal, last three to 10 years. They’re more than 99% effective.
- Barrier methods: These forms of birth control include male and female condoms, sponges, diaphragms, and cervical caps. You must remember to use them every time you have sex, and their efficacy ranges from 76%-88%.
If you’re worried about forgetting to take the birth control pill while drinking, you might consider a contraceptive you don’t have to take as often. Talk to your Nurx medical provider to discuss the best birth control option for your situation.