alcohol and birth control

Alcohol and Birth Control: What Every Woman Needs to Know

alcohol and birth control

Be it a romantic dinner along with wine or a wild party night that ends in a fling, whether it’s good or bad, sex and alcohol often go hand in hand with one another. Fortunately, drinking alcohol doesn’t change the way your method of birth control works. But, if your birth control relies on action or memory; for instance, you have to use a condom while having sex or take a birth control pill at a particular time, then you have to plan ahead when drinking.

If you are drinking alcohol and using the following types of methods of birth control correctly, then the alcohol will not affect them:

  • Oral contraceptive pills (birth control pills)
  • Depo-Provera shots
  • Condoms
  • Morning after pills (emergency contraceptives)
  • IUDs (intrauterine devices)
  • Implants
  • Vaginal rings
  • Patches 

How can alcohol affect birth control?

Though alcohol doesn’t produce an effect on the workings of your contraception method directly, it may indirectly increase the risk of failure of birth control methods. Alcohol can impact your judgment and behavior and this can result in reducing the effectiveness of birth control. In case you become intoxicated by drinking heavily, the chances of forgetting to take the pill on time increases. This becomes more likely if you drink before the time you would normally take the pill. If you typically take the pill in the morning and you drank alcohol the previous night, it is possible that you might sleep through that normal time. It’s important to remember that  the effectiveness of the pill is affected by the time at which you ingest it. 

Drinking alcohol may also make you more prone to get sick. If you fall sick after drinking alcohol and vomit or throw up within one to two hours of consuming the pill, then your body may not absorb it. This situation is the same as not taking a pill and it may increase your chances of ovulation (release of an egg). 


Do birth control methods affect alcohol tolerance?


Women who take oral contraceptives process or metabolize alcohol more slowly in comparison to women who don’t take the pill. This is because their liver has to process both the hormones present in the pill and the alcohol. Furthermore, the hormones present in contraceptives may affect the water distribution in your body and this may change the rate of elimination of the alcohol you consume. Thus, alcohol may remain in your body for a longer duration and its effects may also last longer. 

This can result in higher levels of blood alcohol and may also increase your intoxication level if  you are taking the birth control pill along with drinking alcohol. To put it differently, you can become intoxicated easily and more quickly in comparison to the times when you didn’t take the birth control pill. This makes it more likely to miss a dose or forget to use other kinds of protection while having sex. 

You are also more likely to remain intoxicated due to alcohol for a longer duration during your periods as your body releases a greater amount of hormones during this time. 

Furthermore, when you drink alcohol, it is difficult to correctly use a condom, even if you remember to use one. 


Other risks of drinking alcohol

There are other risks of drinking excessive quantities of alcohol, particularly concerning your sexual behavior. 

Dangerous sexual behavior

After drinking alcohol you may become more careless; thereby, not responsibly using birth control. In a study, it was found that binge drinking or risky drinking in young women almost doubled the chances of contraception becoming ineffective. People who get intoxicated after drinking alcohol are less likely to use condoms and other contraceptives to prevent STIs (sexually transmitted infections) or unwanted pregnancy. There are also chances of regretting your choice of partner to have sex. 

Sexual assault

A link exists between sexual assault and alcohol use. According to a publication by the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) about half of the individuals who have suffered a sexual assault state that they were drunk or under the influence of alcohol during the sexual assault. It is important to note here that, though someone may have been drinking before a person sexually assaulted them, they are not to blame in any way. The perpetrator is always at fault. 

Planning for the future

If you are taking oral contraceptives and know about drinking in advance then you should plan ahead of time. You may:

  • Set an alarm on your phone to remind yourselves to take your medicine on time.
  • Take your pill during the middle of the day, when there are fewer chances of drinking alcohol. This also increases your chances of being awake to take the pill even if you had alcohol the previous night. 
  • Carry backup birth control such as spermicide and condom with you. You must always use a barrier method of birth control (for instance condoms) to protect yourself from STIs unless you and your partner are in a faithful and long-term relationship. 
  • Choose a type of birth control that is low-maintenance, i.e., you get it and then forget it. Some of these are IUD (a tiny device that your healthcare provider places in the uterus and it can effectively provide protection from unwanted pregnancy for three to 10 years) and implant (a small rod, the size of a matchstick, which releases hormones; your healthcare provider inserts it beneath your arm skin and is effective for up to three years). 


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