Hormonal birth control is a method of preventing pregnancy. Some types of antibiotics and other medications can interact with hormonal birth control, causing it to be less effective.

Birth control, or contraception, involves using devices, medication, surgical procedures, or sexual practices to help prevent conception or pregnancy. However, individuals using birth control may wonder whether antibiotics could compromise the effectiveness of these methods.

In this article, we explore whether antibiotics or other medications can interfere with the effectiveness of birth control. We also provide insights into how individuals can ensure the safety of their contraception.

birth control pillsShare on Pinterest
Carol Yepes/Getty Images

In the United States, 14% of people ages 15 to 49 are currently using the pill. While birth control can be highly effective with correct use, certain factors, including using antibiotics, may pose challenges to their reliability. Antibiotics can sometimes interact with other medicines, such as hormonal birth control. This means it may be less effective.

Hormonal birth control is a type of contraception that uses hormones to prevent pregnancy. These contraceptives typically consist of estrogen and progesterone or progesterone only. They block the release of eggs from the ovaries, thinning the uterus lining or thickening cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching the egg.

Learn more about birth control.

Not all antibiotics affect birth control in the same way. The primary concern arises with a class of antibiotics known as rifamycins, which includes rifampin. Doctors prescribe these antibiotics to treat tuberculosis and other bacterial infections.

When individuals use rifampin alongside birth control pills, it can lower the hormone levels present in the pill. This reduction in hormone levels can affect the prevention of ovulation. Rifampin similarly reduces hormone levels in other types of hormonal birth control, such as the patch and vaginal ring. However, no studies have evaluated the risk of pregnancy.

While rifamycins pose the most significant risk, other antibiotics may also affect birth control to varying degrees. Some other antibiotics, such as amoxicillin and tetracycline, may interfere with contraceptive effectiveness, but to a lesser extent. However, the evidence regarding these antibiotics remains inconclusive, and further research is necessary to understand their effects.

Some common antibiotics that do not alter hormone levels when a person takes them with the pill include:

If an individual is in doubt about whether antibiotics will affect their birth control, it is essential to consult a doctor or healthcare professional.

Hormonal contraceptives are available in various forms, including oral pills, injections, implants that insert under the skin, patches, and vaginal or intrauterine devices. Antibiotics that interact with birth control may also affect other types of hormonal birth control, including:

Doctors may recommend nonhormonal methods of birth control with the use of rifampin or any other rifamycin. Types of nonhormonal birth control include:

In addition to antibiotics, several other medications may interfere with birth control. These include:

Individuals need to communicate openly with their healthcare providers about all medications and supplements they are taking to ensure optimal contraceptive efficacy.

To minimize the risk of contraceptive failure due to antibiotic use or other medications, individuals can take several proactive measures:

  1. Communication with healthcare providers: Individuals need to inform a healthcare professional about any antibiotics or other medications they are currently taking or plan to take while using birth control. A doctor can offer personalized guidance and recommendations according to an individual’s health profile.
  2. Consider backup contraception: A person can consider using backup methods of contraception, such as condoms, during the antibiotic course and for a short period afterward.
  3. Adherence to birth control regimens: An individual needs to follow the guidance for the chosen method of birth control meticulously. Consistency is key to ensuring optimal effectiveness, especially when other factors, such as antibiotic use, may potentially affect contraceptive effectiveness.
  4. Regular check-ups: A person needs to schedule regular follow-up appointments with a healthcare professional to monitor a contraceptive regimen’s effectiveness and promptly address any concerns or issues.

The overall risk of contraceptive failure due to antibiotic use appears to be relatively low for most individuals. However, certain antibiotics, such as rifamycins and other types of medication, may reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills. Individuals can navigate potential interactions between antibiotics and birth control while safeguarding their reproductive health by maintaining open communication with healthcare providers, sticking to prescribed medication plans, and considering backup contraception when necessary.

Ultimately, ensuring the effectiveness and reliability of contraception alongside potential medication interactions requires informed decision-making and proactive healthcare management.