Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Birth Control?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

There’s a bit of good news for women who take daily birth control pills and enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages from time to time: Alcohol doesn’t have an impact on the effectiveness of birth control.

But, alcohol does have an impact on your behavior and judgment. This can lead to a less effective birth control.

How alcohol affects birth control

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Alcohol doesn’t have a direct effect on how your birth control works. However, the effects of alcohol can increase your risk of birth control failure.

First, if you’re drinking heavily or become intoxicated, the odds that you’ll forget to take your medicine on time increase. You’re more likely to forget to take your birth control pill if you started drinking before the time you normally take it.

If you take your medicine in the morning and you were drinking the night before, you could also sleep through the time you normally take it. The time you take it affects it’s effectiveness.

The hormones in birth control may affect your body water distribution which can change the rate the alcohol you drink is eliminated. This could lead to higher blood alcohol levels and may increase your level of intoxication if you’re on the pill.

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In other words, you may become intoxicated more quickly than you did before you started the pill. This may also increase your likelihood of missing a dose or forgetting to use protection if you choose to have sex.

Your risk of getting sick could also increase. If you become sick from drinking and vomit within two hours of taking your pill, your body might not absorb the pill. This could increase your chance of releasing an egg (ovulation).

If you plan to drink, consider that the amount you drink may have a more potent effect while you’re taking birth control. Drink less to avoid getting sick.

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Also, set extra reminders for yourself, like on your phone or other device, to avoid forgetting to take your pill.

Skipping or missing a pill can allow ovulation to occur. If you do miss taking a pill, use a backup form of birth control, such as a condom, during sex for at least a month.

Prevent a lapse in birth control

If you’re taking birth control pills and know that you’ll be drinking, plan ahead for as many possible situations as you can.

If you’re in a relationship, explain to your partner that you’d feel more comfortable using a backup form of birth control, such as a condom. This way you don’t run the risk of becoming pregnant because you got sick or forgot to take your pill while drinking.

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You should consider carrying a form of barrier protection, such as a condom, in your purse so that you have it available in the event you plan to have sex. With the condom so close by, you increase your chances of remembering to use it.

Finally, consider the time of day you take your pill. An early morning dose may not be best if you have a habit of sleeping late.

A late-night dose also may not work well if you tend to be out and about during the late night hours.

Set a reminder no matter what time of day you take the pill. Consider moving your time to late morning or afternoon so you increase your odds of being awake and able to take your pill at the right time.

Using the birth control method that’s right for you

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Birth control pills are a common, highly effective type of contraception. They contain man-made forms of hormones that change the level of estrogen in your body to help prevent ovulation.

They also cause the mucus around your cervix to turn sticky and thick. This helps prevent any sperm from entering the uterus and possibly fertilizing an egg if one is accidentally released.

Birth control pills are the leading form of birth control used by American women ages 15 to 29 years. In 2014, it was reported that just over 16 percent of American women ages 15 to 44 years use a birth control pill.

You have to remember to take the pills every day at the same time of day. If remembering a daily birth control pill is too difficult, or you find you’re not able to take it at the same time every day, talk with your doctor about a different type of birth control.

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There are rings, which you insert into your vagina once per month. This is a good option for people who want the protection birth control provides without the permanence of an implanted device.

Implanted devices, like an intrauterine device (IUD), are a good option for women who know they don’t want to try to get pregnant for several years, if at all.

Many types of birth control exist, and each can provide you with the protection you need for the lifestyle you have. Work with your doctor to find a type of birth control that makes you comfortable.

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