I am really, really terrible at remembering to take my birth control pill every day. Even with an alarm on my phone set for the exact same time every day, I still manage to wind up missing at least a few days every month.
Logically, I know that this is a very unhealthy habit. I know that birth control is not something that is to be taken lightly. But I know myself, and I know that I’m bound to forget from time to time (or a lot). I wanted to know what my chronic forgetfulness was actually doing to my body.
First of all, I learned that I am not alone in my irresponsible birth control habits. In fact, a study found that a staggering 80% of young women reported missing one or two pills a month. This is especially true for young women who are just starting to take birth control pills.
In terms of what this means for you, let’s talk about the most obvious risk of not taking your pill on the reg: getting pregnant.
The pill is designed to work best if you take it every single day. If taken properly, the pill can be up 99.7% effective at preventing pregnancy. However, it’s typically more like 91% effective for people who, like myself, struggle to take it consistently.
Let’s think a little bit more about those numbers. If you take the pill exactly as directed (which you probably don’t), you have almost no chance of getting pregnant. Great. Now, think of your ten best female friends. If you all take the pill like a typical young woman and have a few skipped days each month, you or one of those ten best female friends will become pregnant. Yep, 91% is equal to one in eleven. AKA, me or one of my 10 beautiful female friends pictured below (looking fiiiine) is statistically bound to get pregnant. How’s that for scary?
If you’re not taking the pill necessarily to prevent pregnancy (there are tons of other reasons to take it), you may see some negative effects of skipping a day here and there. If you’re taking it to make your periods more regular, then skipping days of pills essentially defeats the point. Basically, taking the pill messes with your hormones, so, if you’re not taking it consistently, your body will be hella confused.
Here’s the good news: there are plenty of resources available to you should you forget to take the pill every once and awhile. A quick Google search for “what to do if you skip a pill [insert name of your birth control here]” will give you instructions as to what to do in the short-term. Additionally, there are more than enough reliable, back-up birth control methods that should make the risk of becoming pregnant very small.
Finally, if taking the pill regularly is more than you can realistically handle (cough, cough, me), you might want to consider an IUD. Fewer than 1 in 100 women who use an IUD get pregnant by accident. I’ll take that over 1 in 11 any day. With an IUD, there’s no need to worry that you forgot to take your pill, and your body will thank you for not making it a hormone-confused mess.
If you’re still set on the pill, head over to bedsider.org where you can learn more about different birth control methods and even set up a text or email reminder that will help you to remember to take your pill.