Antibiotics and birth control: does one medication affect the work of another one? Do antibiotics reduce the effect of contraceptives? This question puzzles many women. The latest data tend to a positive answer. It was found that some antibiotics reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills. Some women became pregnant because they were sick and used antibiotics at the same time as taking birth control pills because they did not understand that this could change the effect of the contraceptive.
The Interaction of Antibiotics and Birth Control
Since hormonal contraceptives are usually taken for a long time, it is possible that at some point you will have to use them together with other medicines. For example, with antibiotics, soothing drugs, etc.
What Drugs Reduce the Effectiveness of Hormonal Contraceptives?
Antibiotics: if you take hormonal contraceptives and there is a need for a course of antibiotics you need to protect yourself more carefully. One of the best options here is a condom.
Some medicinal herbs: Hypericum, in particular, and preparations containing it. Today there is a wide variety of Hypericum preparations on the market. They are used as a light hypnotic and sedative. Meanwhile, such medications can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills.
Sorbents also reduce the absorption of hormones in the gastrointestinal tract, and, consequently, contraceptive efficiency may decrease.
Alcohol, although not a medication, can also reduce the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives. Each woman has her own individual reaction to alcohol. In particular, it can lead to diarrhea or vomiting. If this occurs within two hours after taking the pill you must take another one.
Why Do Antibiotics Affect the Work of Birth Control Pills?
Birth control pills are one of the most effective types of contraception. When they first appeared in the 1960s they changed the lives of women who got an opportunity to have sex only for the sake of pleasure without facing a high risk of pregnancy.
Antibiotics alter the intestinal flora and affect the ability of the body to metabolize hormones. The most active ingredient of birth control pills leaves the body during defecation, and pregnancy can occur.
Antibiotics can change the intestinal flora and reduce the digestibility of hormones. Many of them are the inducers of enzymes which lead to an increase in their number. The more enzymes destroy the contraceptive effect the faster its activity in the blood decrease.
Many women got an unplanned pregnancy when they took antibiotics and birth control at the same time. It turned out that antibiotics change the mechanism of action of many drugs and make birth control pills less effective.
Hormones which are part of preparations that prevent conception form compounds that are not absorbed into the blood without the help of intestinal microflora. But antibiotics suppress this flora, and then the level of the hormone in the blood can decrease so much that the contraceptive effect disappears. An unplanned pregnancy on the background of an inflammatory disease can end for a woman either with an abortion or with the birth of an unhealthy child.
How Does It Work?
The examples of antibiotics that can affect birth control pills include Amoxicillin, Ampicillin, Erythromycin, and Tetracycline. Other antibiotics which are also inducers of enzymes, such as Rifampicin and Rifabutin, are strong and make birth control ineffective for sure. These types of drugs can increase the number of enzymes in the body. They are known as enzyme-inducing and can affect hormonal contraception. Enzymes in the body do not return to normal balance within a few weeks after taking such type of medication. So, doctors advise the simultaneous use of other methods of contraception.
Enzymes are proteins that control chemical reactions in the body. They can speed up the processing of the ingredients of the pills. That’s why pregnancy can occur if you don’t use other methods of contraception.
If you take antibiotics and birth control together it is better to secure yourself with condoms or other methods of contraception (suppositories, interrupted sexual contact, spermicidal ointments, etc.). Be sure to pay attention to the section of the instructions of your medication about interaction with other medicinal substances. You can’t drink tea with some pills because it contains tannin which forms a poorly digested compound for a contraceptive. Along with an antibiotic, it will further reduce the effectiveness of the birth control pills.
Be careful, large doses of vitamin C can absorb estrogen. Therefore, do not drink ascorbic acid together with the means of protection. The same effect paracetamol and many anticramping medications have. A break between such drugs should be at least two hours.
What Else Can Reduce the Effectiveness of Birth Control Pills?
- Anticonvulsants, such as Phenytoin and Carbamazepine.
- HIV drugs, such as Norvir.
- Taking the drugs with Ulipristal Acetate.
- Taking herbal medicines, for example, medications curing depression.
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting.
If you’ve been taking an enzyme-inducing antibiotic you need simultaneous methods of alternative contraception – non-hormonal methods – four to eight weeks after you stopped antibiotics treatment.
Every means of contraception has its own formula for reliability. As a rule, the reliability of the formula is very high. But if you add some random component to it, then the effect can considerably decrease. The reliability of hormonal contraceptives is 90-99%, the reliability of combining antibiotics and birth control pills is 20-30%.
If you’ve had to take antibiotics and birth control pills, then, despite the unsuccessful combination of drugs, it is better to finish the package. During the current cycle, it is desirable to additionally protect yourself with a condom or other barrier.
Birth Control Pills Can Indeed not Work if You Take Antibiotics
Birth control pills are a very good method of contraception. But they are also imperfect.
Despite the common fears and warning labels that you can see on some drugs, there is no reliable scientific evidence suggesting that the birth control pills do not work effectively enough with the simultaneous intake of antibiotics. But such situations can happen. Remember, birth control pills do not work in at least 1% of all cases even under perfect conditions. And if you somehow violate the conditions of taking birth control pills an unexpected pregnancy can occur. So, it makes sense to use some other means of contraception if you have to take antibiotics and birth control pills at the same time.
Antibiotics and Birth Control: Side-Effects
There isn’t much scientific research on the adverse side-effects of taking antibiotics with birth control pills. In theory, the side-effects of both drugs may worsen if you take both types of drugs at the same time. These side-effects may include:
The side-effects vary depending on the person and the class of antibiotics taken. Not everyone who takes birth control pills and antibiotics experiences negative side-effects.
Despite the evidence that antibiotics lessen the effectiveness of birth control pills, there may be other factors that lead to birth control failure. For example, you may not take your birth control pills on time or you may skip a pill or two if you’re sick. The pill may not be absorbed properly if you’re vomiting. While it seems that antibiotics are to blame, it may be just a coincidence.