Birth control: 6 of the most common mistakes and how to avoid them

The lack of pills, smoking tobacco, and even some medications can make birth control less effective. Here are some of the most common birth control mistakes and how to avoid them.

Close up hand contraceptive pill with colorful pill strips. Contraception reduces childbirth and pregnant concept.
There are a number of common mistakes people make when using birth control

Contraception is a simple and convenient way to prevent pregnancy while offering a number of other benefits such as:

But with so many birth control methods available, it’s important to find the method that works for you, and how well it works depends on how you use it.

Here are some of the most common birth control mistakes and how to address them.

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1. You don’t take the pill every day

There are two types of birth control pills – combination pills and mini pills.

Both pills are 99 percent effective when used correctly, but that percentage drops when the dose is skipped.

Sophia Yen, MD, CEO and co-founder of Pandia Health, a birth control delivery service, said that if you forget a pill, your risk of pregnancy is still small, as long as you take it as soon as you remember.

She warns that missing two or more pills can lead to a higher chance of pregnancy and recommends using emergency contraception if you have had sex in the past five days and using a backup form of protection, such as a condom, for the next seven days .

Yen recommended strategies to help you remember to take your pill:

  • Set a daily alarm on your phone

  • Keep pills next to your toothbrush or toner to remind them to take them first thing in the morning or before bed

  • Keep pills on your bedside table next to a glass of water so you can take one when you wake up

2. You do not take the pill at the same time every day

Taking birth control at the same time each day can ensure maximum effectiveness


(Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF)

Consistency is key when taking your birth control.

Combination pills contain both progestin and estrogen, while minipills contain only progestin.

The mini pill must be taken within the same three hours each day for maximum effectiveness.

It contains lower doses of hormones than the combined pill, so it’s important to take it at the same time each day to maintain the hormone levels needed to prevent pregnancy.

Combination pills can be taken within the same five to six hour window for maximum efficiency, but they’re easy to forget, so set reminders to help you remember.

3. You are taking medications that interfere with contraception

Some medications can make birth control pills less effective



Before starting any new medication, consult your doctor or pharmacist to see if the medication could interfere with your birth control pills.

The following medications and supplements can make birth control pills less effective:

  • Griseofulvin, a Antifungal medicines used to treat skin infections
  • rifampicin, an antibiotic used to treat tuberculosis
  • St. John’s wort, a herbal supplement sometimes used for depression and anxiety

For those using rifampicin temporarily, Mary Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics at Yale University School of Medicine, has recommended using a barrier method, such as a condom, until you’re off the antibiotic.

4. You don’t use a condom

Condoms can also protect against unwanted pregnancy


(Getty Images)

Using other birth control methods, such as a condom, in combination with birth control can provide additional protection against an unwanted pregnancy.

Condoms can also protect against sexually transmitted infections, but birth control cannot.

They can be easily carried in a bag or stored in a nightstand drawer.

5. You smoke and use contraceptives

Smoking tobacco while using estrogen-containing contraceptives such as the COC, patch, or ring may increase your risk of blood clots, heart attack, and stroke, especially if you are older than 35 years.

While it doesn’t make birth control any less effective, Minkin recommends either quitting smoking or switching to a progesterone-only form of birth control, like the minipill or an IUD.

It’s important to talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble quitting smoking and if you’re using hormonal birth control to find the best solution for you.

6. You apply the patch incorrectly

The patch should be applied to dry, clean skin to be effective


Getty Images/Collection Mix: Themes RF)

The birth control patch contains estrogen and progestin to prevent ovulation, but is placed on the skin to allow your body to absorb these hormones.

The patch should be placed on dry, clean skin and not in an area where it could be rubbed, such as under a bra strap. Places where the patch works best include:

  • belly
  • Upper Outer Arm
  • buttocks
  • Return

Your skin needs to absorb the hormones for it to be effective, and Yen warns that if the edges of the patch peel off, it’s likely been applied incorrectly and could fall off.

Other patch mistakes include applying to damp skin and refilling your prescription or not changing the patch on time.

A new patch must be applied every seven days. Yen recommended tips to help you remember when to change your patch:

By avoiding these simple mistakes and being consistent, you can maximize the effectiveness of your birth control pill.

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Fry Electronics Team

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