Alcohol probably does not affect most forms of birth control. Limited research suggests that it may affect hormone-based methods such as the pill.
However, the use of alcohol can impair judgment and interfere with all forms of birth control that depend on a woman following specific behaviors or routines. This alcohol-induced lack of follow-through leads to significant numbers of unplanned pregnancies.
“Pre-conception binge drinking has also been shown to be associated with unintended pregnancies…” (Parackel, et. al.)
Alcohol consumption and risky sexual behavior are strongly correlated. A study showed that half of women who were sexually active without contraception—despite not wanting a pregnancy—were consuming alcohol at the time.
The highest rate of unplanned pregnancy occurs in the age group of women at highest risk of binge drinking, ages 15 to 19, and social pressures lead many women to continue to abuse alcohol rather than find support.
Ardu offers a women’s alcohol rehab program that can help you kick the need for alcohol and get caring and compassionate support.
Using a contraceptive method does not always prevent pregnancy. Almost half of all unplanned pregnancies occur among women who actively use contraception. That’s why it’s so important to use contraceptives correctly every time.
Alcohol consumption may interfere with you taking your pill at the same time each day as required. Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs may make you forget to plan ahead and use a condom, which can lead to both unwanted pregnancies and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) that affect your sexual health.
The influence of alcohol on contraceptive failure is a complex topic, with some research suggesting that alcohol may interfere with the metabolism and absorption of hormone-based contraceptives.
Discuss different types of contraception with a healthcare professional who can provide personalized advice based on your specific circumstances, and always disclose your alcohol consumption.
Non-hormonal contraceptives are generally not affected by alcohol. Options include copper IUDs and barrier methods.
The copper IUD is a non-hormonal contraceptive that does not interact with alcohol. It is a small device inserted into the uterus that works by preventing fertilization and implantation. Copper IUDs are highly effective and can provide long-term protection.
Condoms, both male and female, are barrier methods that can provide protection against both unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). While alcohol consumption can potentially affect decision-making and proper usage, using condoms consistently and correctly can mitigate health risks.
In situations of contraception failure or sexual assault, emergency contraceptives (such as the “morning-after pill”) are generally unaffected by alcohol and can reduce the risk of pregnancy. Planned Parenthood and healthcare providers can provide information and guidance on emergency contraceptive options.
Hormonal birth control options include taking birth control pills or using patches, vaginal rings, or hormonal IUDs. Emerging medically reviewed studies are exploring the possibility that alcohol consumption can interfere with the metabolism of hormonal birth control, but that doesn’t mean you should stop taking the pill.
The pill is the most prescribed type of birth control in the United States, including for age groups that consume alcohol at rates above 50%. All methods of birth control acquired through your doctor are dramatically better options for preventing pregnancy than using no contraception at all.
If you are one of the millions of women who take hormonal birth control, keep the following in mind:
If you vomit after drinking too much within two hours of taking your pill, the pill may not absorb properly. Take your pill at the same time each day, and take it when you’re unlikely to experience alcohol nausea.
Alcohol consumption most likely does not reduce the effectiveness of the pill, as long as you don’t vomit up the pill before it can be absorbed.
The pill can slow down the rate at which alcohol leaves your body. As you continue to drink, the alcohol accumulates and increases your blood alcohol level. If you are on the pill, you may need to drink less than others to keep your blood alcohol at safe levels.
Birth control methods are not directly affected by your male partner’s alcohol use. However, if both of you have been heavily drinking, the likelihood of misusing contraception properly (condoms, for example), goes up significantly.
Alcohol does not directly interfere with the effectiveness of an implant, such as Nexplanon. As always, however, excessive alcohol consumption is correlated with riskier sexual behavior.
Drinking alcohol puts your physical health at risk, and, should you get pregnant, affects your baby. Your baby will be at risk of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and will experience alcohol toxicity from the time you get pregnant until 7-10 after the alcohol has left your body, or until the birth of your child should you continue to drink.
Other risks for your health include increased chances of breast cancer, mental health issues, and potentially even diseases like multiple sclerosis.
Smoking can make birth control ineffective and should not be taken with hormonal birth control, as both smoking and hormonal birth control affect your blood flow negatively. Always disclose your smoking habits to doctors when seeking medical advice.
Avoid smoking, alcohol use—particularly binge drinking—and medications, such as antibiotics, anticonvulsants, and some herbal supplements. Inform your healthcare provider about all medications you are taking to determine if any adjustments or additional contraceptive methods are necessary.
Certain medications, such as antibiotics, antifungal drugs, anticonvulsants, or antiretroviral medications, can interact with hormonal contraceptives and reduce their effectiveness.
Other things to keep in mind include:
Don’t mix the following drugs with alcohol.
This is not an exhaustive list, and there are many other medications that may interact negatively with alcohol. If you’re going to drink, it’s best to plan ahead and know how your medications interact with alcohol.
Drinking alcohol can exacerbate an underlying mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder.
If you are engaging in unsafe behavior due to alcohol consumption, seeking professional help is crucial for accurate diagnosis, treatment planning, and ongoing support.
Ardu Recovery Center in Provo, Utah, offers the progressive recovery programs and therapies that you need to transition into a life of renewed sobriety. For additional information on medical intervention, anxiety treatment, depression treatment, and lifestyle changes in the Salt Lake area, contact Ardu Recovery Center today at 801-512-0086.
If your male partner is struggling with alcohol abuse, we also offer a men’s alcohol rehab program.
Does smoking affect efficacy of the pill? Ask the experts – PubMed. (1999, December 1). PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12295560/
Alcohol, Contraception and Preconception. (2013). In https://www.gov.mb.ca/fs/fasd/pubs/alcohol_contraception_preconception_more.pdf.
Parackal, S., Parackal, M., & Akhtar, S. S. (2023, January). A cross-sectional study on alcohol and contraception use among sexually active women of childbearing age: Implications for preventing alcohol-exposed pregnancies. Women’s Health, 19, 174550572311614. https://doi.org/10.1177/17455057231161479
Mina Draskovic, B.Psy., reviewed this content for accuracy on 6/30/23