If you take a hormonal method of birth control such as the pill, patch, or vaginal ring, you probably feel confident that it can reliably prevent pregnancy, and you’d be right. But what you may not realize is many unrelated medications can actually decrease the effects of your birth control, making pregnancy more likely.
So what should you do to avoid this risk? The answer is, make all your health care providers aware of all your meds and natural supplements. Here’s how to cover all your bases:
- Every one of your physicians — your gynecologist, primary care physician, and any specialists — needs to know all of the drugs and supplements you’re taking at any time. For instance, if your gynecologist prescribes you the pill, and later you see your primary care physician and get an antibiotic for acne, the physicians may not be aware of each other’s prescriptions. This means they may not be able to alert you to possible interactions. So it’s time to be very honest and open when your physician asks you about your current medications. This includes herbs, vitamins, and other natural supplements.
- Your pharmacist can also make you aware of drug interactions — but only if you get all your medications from one pharmacy. If you use more than one place, you should tell each pharmacist about all of the drugs and supplements you currently take. If you’re taking multiple medications and it’s hard to keep track, have them written down in your wallet, planner, or phone, and share it with your pharmacist each time you get a new medication.
These are the most common drugs that are known to decrease birth control effectiveness:
- Some antibiotics (but not all), including those used for acne, urinary tract infections, strep throat, Tuberculosis, and other bacterial infections. Your physician can prescribe an antibiotic that won’t interact with your birth control and still treat these conditions.
- Some anti-seizure medications for epilepsy, as well as some similar drugs that treat seizures, migraines, and bipolar disorder.
- Some antifungals used for yeast infections and athlete’s foot.
- Certain anti-anxiety medications as well as some common antidepressants.
- Theophylline, commonly used to treat asthma or lung diseases like COPD.
- Some natural supplements — most commonly St. John's wort. Be especially careful with natural products when you’re on hormonal birth control. These products are not regulated by the FDA and there isn’t as much data about their potential interactions with other medications.
If you keep a comprehensive list of your medications and supplements and share it with all your health care providers, you can minimize the risk of any interactions or problems. This is an important step you can take to stay healthy and informed about your health care.
CarePoint Health Gynecology
With the help of a skilled gynecologist at CarePoint Health, you can make educated decisions about your health to be at your best at any stage of life. For more information about the comprehensive women’s services we provide, please contact us.
Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.