7 Mistakes You’re Probably Making With Birth Control

Like roughly nine million women in the United States, I take a hormonal birth control pill every day. I like the pill because it’s helped me to avoid period cramps, predict when my period will actually come, and, along with my semi-intensive skincare routine, help keep acne at bay. Also, its intended purpose–you know, not getting pregnant? That doesn’t really hurt, either.

Not everyone who takes birth control pills does so explicitly to prevent pregnancy–I was prescribed birth control long before I started having sex to regulate my period and help clear up my skin–but if your reasons for taking the pill are pregnancy-related, you probably want it to, uh, work. Unless you just happen to love taking tiny hormone-filled pills. And maybe you do!  I don’t know your life.  Anyway, I should note that birth control isn’t the only thing required for truly safe sex–in order to prevent against STIs, you need a barrier method, like a condom–but when birth control pills are used correctly, they can be very effective (like, 99% effective) in preventing against pregnancy. You just need to avoid certain common birth control errors. So, check out these mistakes you could be making with your birth control pills:

Skipping Days

Skipping your pill entirely is, unsurprisingly, one of the worst things you can do when it comes to oral contraception. Well, to be exact, missing one pill isn't a huge deal, but if you miss any more than that (especially if it's a few consecutive days), you should definitely use a backup method. This is because, for every day you miss a birth control pill, your chance of unintentional pregnancy goes up. So, don't skip your pills!

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Not Knowing What To Do When You Skip A Day

Did you miss taking your pill for one day? If so, just take it when you remember it. Then, take your other pill at your regularly scheduled time. (If you remember that you missed your first pill when taking the other pill, just take them both at the same time.) But if you missed two or more pills, double up on your pill and make sure you use a backup method until you're back on track. Really confused on what to do? Call your doctor--they'll be able to give you a clear-cut answer on how to deal.

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Taking Your Pill At Different Times Every Day

Like, you take it at 10 AM one day, 10 PM the next, and 3 PM the next. Now, for most birth control pills, as long as you're taking it every day, you're pretty safe from pregnancy. (Unless you're on a progestin-only pill--those need to be taken within the same three hour window every day.)  But taking the pill at off hours can lead to irregular bleeding, and, based on my own anecdotal experience, forgetting to take the pill altogether. Which is not good! To be safe, try to set an alarm to make sure you take your pill at a certain time every day. It's not totally necessary to take the pill at, like, 8 PM on the dot every single day, but it's good to get in the habit to ensure you don't forget it.

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Overheating Your Pills

Weird, but true--if your pills get overheated, they can break down. As a result, this causes them to become inactive. So, try to keep your birth control pills in a cool, dry-ish area--AKA not in the glove compartment of your car or on a shelf right above the heating vent in your room. Not sure what temperature is ideal for you? Your best bet is a solid room temperature--around 75 degrees--but most birth controls list their ideal storage temperature on the packaging, so give yours a look if you aren't sure what to do.

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Not Using Backup If You're On Antibiotics

Certain medications--such as some anti-fungal medications, antidepressants, antibiotics, and a couple of others--can make birth control less effective. So, before you get on birth control, let your doctor know about any and all medication you're taking, even if you don't think it's a big deal. This way, they'll be able to tell you for sure if your birth control will be as effective as it can be.

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Not Using A Backup Method If You Throw Up

In certain cases, vomiting or experiencing diarrhea can impact the effectiveness of the pill, since it leaves your body before it can fully take effect. So, if you have a stomach bug but still want to have sex (godspeed!), make sure you're using another method of protection too, just to be safe.

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Only Using Birth Control Pills

So, yes--the pill can be quite effective against pregnancy if it's used correctly. But it's only effective against pregnancy, which means that you need to be using barrier method of contraception (like a condom) in order to prevent against STIs. And, of course, if you're ever feeling a little uncertain about the efficacy of your pill--maybe you missed a day, maybe you're on a new medication--always use a backup method, just in case.

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Were you surprised by any of these things? Which ones? Let us know in the comments!

You can reach the author, Sara Hendricks, on Twitter and Instagram.

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