There are several ways that drinking alcohol can affect your experience with birth control, depending on which type of contraception you use. If you’re worried about alcohol affecting your contraception, speak to a medical professional such as your pharmacist. Our handy checklist will help you prepare answers to some of the questions you may be asked.
How can alcohol affect birth control?
In this article, we’ll outline some of the possible effects of drinking alcohol while using birth control, and give you some advice on how to manage them.
Some contraceptives, such as the combined pill, the progestogen-only pill, and the patch, require you to remember to take or apply them at around the same time every day - or in the case of the contraceptive patch, every week. If you don’t, the effectiveness of the contraception may be reduced, and you may accidentally conceive if you have unprotected sex during this time.
If you drink too much, you may forget to take the pill or apply the patch, resulting in reduced protection. Drinking the night before you’re due to use contraception may cause you to oversleep and miss your window for taking it, particularly if you usually take the pill when you get up in the morning.
If you consistently find it difficult to remember to use contraception like the pill or the patch, you may find it helpful to talk to a medical professional about the option of switching to a different method of contraception. Methods like the implant, IUDs, and the contraceptive injection don’t need to be topped up so often, and might be more suitable for your needs.
You might also forget to use contraception while you’re still drunk. Alcohol can cloud your judgement, which might result in you deciding to have sex without a condom or diaphragm, putting yourself or a sexual partner at greater risk of becoming pregnant. Not using a condom means you won’t have protection against sexually transmitted infections either - you might need to get a test.
Another way alcohol can affect birth control is if you’re sick within a few hours of taking your contraceptive pill. This applies to both the combined pill and the progestogen-only pill, as they both are swallowed with water and go into your stomach. If you are sick before the pill gets absorbed into your bloodstream, it might not work properly.
If this happens to you, you should treat it as though you’ve missed the pill, and follow the instructions that came with your contraception in the patient information leaflet.
Can you drink on the pill?
Alcohol itself doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of either the combined pill or the progestogen-only pill, so you can have a drink while taking the pill. However, as always when drinking alcohol, it’s important not to go overboard so you don’t risk any symptoms of drunkenness or hangovers getting in the way of your contraceptive plan.
One way of doing this is to try and balance your alcoholic drinks with soft drinks, such as water or squash. Not only can this improve your chances of staying on track with your contraception, but it will also help you to stay clear-headed and enjoy yourself for longer - without nasty hangovers or vomiting.