Birth control is nothing new. Methods as early as 1500 BCE are recorded in the Ebers Papyrus of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt and include a paste of honey, acacia leaves and lint (yup) put in the vagina to block sperm. Ancient Roman relics dating back to 200 BCE show a bronze pessary to block the cervix. And the famous lover, Casanova, wrote about using a lambskin condom in the 1700’s.
It’s hard to know how effective these methods were. But, today, we have dozens of reliable methods. When used correctly popular methods are over 99% successful at preventing pregnancy. This number drops a few points when they are used “in real life (IRL).” For example, forgetting a pill and doubling up the next day.
Nothing (except abstinence) works 100% of the time and surprise pregnancies are pretty common. According to the Guttmacher Institute nearly half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are not intended. Of those, half of the women were using some method of birth control.
It took me a few months to be comfortable being pregnant. Now that I am, I got curious as to why. I was on birth control. So, I dug into the IRL behaviors that can reduce the effectiveness of the pill. Number one is obvi -- but two and three were new to me.
If you’re taking the pill and not keen on getting a “bump,” take a peek.
1. Be on time. There are 2 types of birth control pills. If you’re taking a progestin-only pill, you have a 3-hour window to dose or you’ll need to use a back-up method for 2-days! If you are taking a combination pill (estrogen and progestin) there is more leeway, but it’s best to stay on schedule. Learn more at Planned Parenthood.
2. Check for drug interactions. I had a Morton’s Neuroma removed when I was unknowingly 2-weeks pregnant. Before the surgery I was in a TON of pain and took Oxycodon a few times a week to deal with it. Oxycodon reduces the effectiveness of birth control pills, a back-up method is recommended.
3. Check for herbal supplement interactions. Ironically, the same herbs that soften cramps can soften the effectiveness of birth control pills.
When in doubt, ask your doctor or double-up on your methods.