It's important to do your homework when it comes to medication because they can affect each other negatively. Here's the truth about antibiotics and birth control.
Most antibiotics don't affect contraception. It's now thought that the only types of antibiotic that interact with hormonal contraception and make it less effective are rifampicin-like antibiotics. Here's how antibiotics can affect your birth control.
Imagine this, you get a bad flu or a chest infection and when you go to the doctor and they prescribe you an antibiotic to treat the infection. They ask if you’re on any other medication and it's essential that you answer properly.
Don’t worry, your doctor isn’t digging into your personal life. Knowing what medications you’re on can prevent drug interactions from causing damage to your body so the more they know, the more they can help you.
These types of antibiotics can increase the enzymes in your body. This is known as being "enzyme-inducing", and can affect hormonal contraception.
If you are taking enzyme-inducing antibiotics while using hormonal contraception, to avoid getting pregnant you will need to use additional contraception, such as condoms, change to a different method of contraception, or take your contraception in a different way. These are the best ways to prevent accidental pregnancy.
Apart from those mentioned above, all other antibiotics aren't enzyme-inducing. However, the patient information leaflet that comes with other types of antibiotics may say they could affect your contraception and needs to be read carefully.
Extra protection when taking antibiotics
If you are going to take rifampicin or rifabutin for more than two months, you will have to consider starting or changing to a method of contraception that is not affected by these medicines.
You should consider doing this if you're currently using:
- the combined pill
- the progestogen-only pill
- an implant
- a patch
- a vaginal ring
Contraception methods that aren't affected by rifampicin or rifabutin include:
- the progestogen-only injection
- an intrauterine device (IUD)
- an intrauterine system (IUS)
If you're taking rifampicin or rifabutin for less than two months and want to continue using the same hormonal contraception, you have to have a conversation with your doctor. You may be asked to take this contraception in a different way from usual and use condoms as well. You will need to continue this for 28 days after finishing the antibiotics.
One option for women who have a contraceptive implant and need to take a short dose of rifampicin (for preventing meningitis, for example) is a single dose of the progestogen injection. The implant can stay in place while you're covered by the injection.
All in all, it's important to understand the medication you are taking and how it affects you. Read the leaflet that comes with your medicine carefully and if you are in any doubt, have a conversation with your doctor about your options.