Birth control pills are one of the most popular forms of birth control among women of childbearing age. Over 12 million women in the United States are on some form of oral birth control. This is because it is 99% effective when used according to instructions. However, there are some cases of pregnancy while using the pill. Getting pregnant while on birth control is commonly due to missed pills or drug interactions. Read on to learn more about how women can get pregnant while taking birth control.

Getting Pregnant While on Birth Control

Is It Possible?

A common question among women of childbearing age is, “Can you get pregnant while on birth control?” The answer is YES. Other than sterilization methods like vasectomy or having your tubes tied, all other methods are only up to 99% effective. Some a little less depending on the method. The birth control pill is right around 99% effective if used according to instructions. That means not missing pills or taking with other medications that reduce its effectiveness.

Things That Affect Effectiveness

Birth control becomes less effective with user error. Here are some of the things that can go wrong:

  • Skipping pillsMissing even one pill can cause your body to release an egg. When you miss one or more pills, double up on your next dose and use another form of birth control if you have sex.
  • Not taking your pills at the same time. Close to 24 hours after you take your last pillthe effectiveness begins to wear off. This is because birth control dosages are kept as low as possible to prevent complications. If you wait an hour or two later than your dose the day before, you can ovulate.
  • Drug interactionsThere are certain drugs that lower the effectiveness of birth control pills. These includeseizure medications, antibiotics, HIV medications, and St. John’s Wort. If you need to take any of these medications, let your doctor know you are taking birth control and use another method while you are taking these medications.
  • Drinking alcoholOne reason for getting pregnant while on birth control is that glass of wine before bed. Your liver influences how you metabolize and absorb the drugs you take. Alcohol weakens the liver’s ability to properly metabolize drugs and may reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills.
  • Generic birth control pillsYou may be saving yourself some money with generics, but you may also be getting less of the hormones you need to suppress ovulation. For some people generic forms work just fine, but for others they may not work as well.
  • Stomach illnessBirth control pills need a little time in your digestive system to be absorbed. They need to sit in the stomach for a little while and travel down the intestines for full absorption. If you are vomiting or even have diarrhea, this may reduce what you are absorbing.

Signs You Might Be Pregnant On Birth Control

This can be tough because many side-effects of birth control mimic pregnancy. The only sure way to tell if you are pregnant while on birth control is a positive pregnancy test. Women on birth control may miss periods once in a while, they may feel nausea from the hormones, and possibly have light spotting in the middle of the month and there is no way to know if this is a side-effect or implantation spotting. Birth control pills can also cause breast soreness, altered sense of smell, and mood swings. If you are taking the pill and suspect pregnancy, see your doctor or take a home pregnancy test to prevent complications. But it helps to understand the early signs of pregnancy.

What to Do If You Become Pregnant While Taking Birth Control

The good news is that studies show taking birth control into early pregnancy will not hurt the baby. Some small studies have shown there may be a possibility of early delivery, low birth weight or congenital urinary tract issues, but these are very rare.

The one complication of getting pregnant while on birth control is a possible tubal (ectopic) pregnancy. This is when the fertilized egg embeds itself into the fallopian tube and not the uterus. This can be a serious and life-threatening complication and needs medical attention right away.

The best thing to do if you think you are pregnant is take a pregnancy test at home. If you test positive, stop taking birth control pills right away. If the test is negative, see your doctor for instructions. You may want to stop your pills anyway and use another form of safe birth control like a condom until you receive the all clear from your doctor. Here’s more on what to do after finding out you are pregnant.

Experience of Getting Pregnant on the Pill from Others

“I got pregnant after three months on birth control. I took them every single day without missing a dose. I don’t understand what happened. I didn’t take any other medications and took the pills the same time every day. The only thing I can think of is I like to have a beer once in a while. Anyways, I had a son and he is such a blessing to our lives.”

                                                                                                                                       Amber, 23

“I became pregnant while taking birth control and had an ectopic pregnancy. I had taken a course of antibiotics for a sinus infection and I am pretty sure that is what caused it to happen. I’m just more careful now if I have to take other medications.”

                                                                                                                                         Sonja, 19

“I had a pregnancy while taking the pill after 20 years of being on birth control. I missed a few days while we were on vacation. It was surprising because if you are on the pill a long time, you may not ovulate right away. I guess I did! Our baby is wonderful and we are so happy to be parents.”

                                                                                                                                        Gloria, 39