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Birth Control and Alcohol: Do They Interact?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Dec 3, 2019.

Does birth control interact with alcohol?

Hormonal birth control methods such as the pill, intrauterine device (IUD), hormonal implant, ring, shot, or the patch -- when used correctly -- are about 91% to 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. Alcohol use does not lower the effectiveness of hormonal birth control methods, including emergency contraception. Drinking also does not lower the effectiveness of the condom, diaphragm, cervical cap or female condom when used correctly and consistently.

But there are some tips you should consider if you use alcohol and birth control:

  • Alcohol (ethanol) use and intoxication can cloud your judgement, increase your risk for unsafe sex, boost the chance you'll forget to take your pill or use protection, and make driving dangerous. Skipping your pill at the regular time once or twice a month may increase the chances of ovulation (releasing an egg) and a pregnancy.
  • If you drink so much alcohol that you vomit within 2 hours of taking your pill, then the effectiveness of the pill could be compromised. Try to avoid drinking so much alcohol that it leads to vomiting; this can be dangerous.
  • If you should vomit, take another pill as soon as possible and quickly check with your healthcare provider about how to proceed.

Learn More: Missed taking your birth control pill? Here's what to do next...

Also, consider your lifestyle. It's best to take your pill at the same time every day.

  • If you are out drinking excessively on a regular basis, you might miss your pill late at night or first thing in the morning, especially if you sleep in late.
  • Take your pill at the same time every day when you are most likely to be awake -- for example, mid-afternoon.
  • Set a reminder on your phone to do this, if needed. Missing your pill will increase your chance for an unwanted pregnancy.

Plan for the unexpected. If you think you might need a condom for protection from pregnancy and/or a  sexually transmitted disease (STD) like HIV, keep one with you at all times and within easy reach.

Still no luck with these tips? Then consider using a fool-proof, longer-term birth control method, like the IUD, implant, or vaginal ring. That way you don't have to remember to take it daily. Plus, these methods can be easily removed if you change your mind or decide it's time to start a family.

There can be other drug interactions with contraceptives you should think about, too. Be sure to have a complete drug interaction review by your pharmacist each time you start a new medication. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medications you take, including over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Some drugs can alter the effectiveness of hormonal birth control and may increase your risk for a pregnancy.

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Data are lacking and reports are conflicting; however, some research suggests that the blood levels of alcohol may be increased if you take the birth control pill and drink. This could make the intoxicating effects of alcohol more intense. The mechanism may be due to liver enzyme inhibition and the effect is unpredictable. Talk with your doctor about this interaction if you have a concern.

Bottom line: you should drink responsibly and not to the point where you are a risk to yourself or to others. Plan ahead if you think alcohol may impair your ability to effectively use birth control. Never drive if you have been drinking, and don't ride in car with a driver who has been drinking.

Types of Drug Interactions With Alcohol

Sources

  1. Hobbes J, Boutagy J, Shenfield G. Interactions between ethanol and oral contraceptive steroids. Clin Pharmacol Ther 38 (1985): 371-80. Accessed Dec. 3, 2019 at https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1530-0277.1984.tb05026.x
  2. Jones MK, Jones BM. Ethanol metabolism in women taking oral contraceptives. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1984 Jan-Feb;8(1):24-8. Accessed Dec. 3, 2019 at  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1530-0277.1984.tb05026.x
  3. Peacock A, Droste N, Pennay A, et al. Self-reported risk-taking behavior during matched-frequency sessions of alcohol versus combined alcohol and energy drinks consumption: does co-ingestion increase risk-taking? Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2015;39:911-8. Accessed Dec. 3, 2019 at  https://doi.org/10.1111/acer.12700

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.