According to the American College Health Association, at least 39% of college women take birth control pills, and for me, I barely even remember those blissful pre-puberty days of not having to remember to take mine. Over the years, I’ve also gotten a lot of advice on various birth control related topics from friends and family, including watching out for antibiotics. 

However, I had never quite gotten a straight answer on if that antibiotics theory was true or just a wives’ tale. So I decided to settle the matter for myself (and all my fellow B.C. sisters) and ask my doctor about it. My doctor also conveniently happens to be my mom.

The Theory:

The main theory that I’d been told was that antibiotics would affect the hormonal part of the oral contraceptives (AKA birth control pills) I was taking, and make me more susceptible to getting pregnant. No thank you to that.

According to my doctor, health professionals largely adopted this theory, mainly because there wasn’t much conclusive evidence on the topic. With so many new types of antibiotics becoming available all the time, it was also just safer to warn all antibiotics users in case it did affect them.

How True Is It?

sweet, candy, egg
Ellen Gibbs

Well, several studies have come back in recent years showing that actually only one antibiotic showed any direct correlation with messing up birth control. Luckily for us, the drug in question, “rifampin”, is an anti-tuberculosis drug that is not commonly used, partly because people don’t really get tuberculosis anymore.

What many studies concluded was that unplanned pregnancies that happened while taking antibiotics were more likely caused by patients inconsistently taking their birth control than the antibiotics. One thing my doctor/mom also wanted to make clear was that even with perfect use, birth control pills still have a 1% failure rate, and an 8% failure rate with normal use.

Here's a few words of advice from my mom: “So it never hurts to bring your rain jacket to the party too." Her exact words, not mine - good advice though.

What You Should Do:

candy, coffee, chocolate
Sasha Ligay

While antibiotics might not affect you, there are some seizure drugs and anti-fungal medicines, along with a small handful of other rare drugs, that may affect your birth control. Your doctor should provide more information if you are prescribed one of them, but the best plan of action is to use a non-hormonal contraceptive — like a condom or as my mom calls it, a "rain jacket" — while you’re taking the medication and for one week after your prescription is finished.

While it turns out that all of those years of being warned about antibiotics and birth control might have been for nothing, it did raise an important point about birth control effectivity in the first place. If you're gonna have some fun, it never hurts to be extra careful.

Also, in return for letting me interview her, I had to let my mom practice her best "relatable" teen safe sex talk on me and it's safe to say there are parts of my brain that will never recover after writing this article.