How Does Alcohol Affect Birth Control?

Wine and a romantic dinner. A nightcap and couch-cuddle time. A wild keg party topped with a fling. Whether or not it’s a great idea, alcohol and sex often end up together. The good news is, drinking alcohol won’t change how well your birth control method works. But if it relies on memory or action -- you take a pill at a certain time or use a condom -- you’ll need to think ahead when drinking is in your future.

Alcohol and Contraception

As far as effectiveness goes, you’re in the clear if you drink alcohol and correctly use these types of contraception:

Drinking can, however, throw off your birth control. Alcohol addles your mind and alters your behavior. It can make you more careless -- and derail your intentions to use birth control responsibly. A study of binge drinking in young women found risky drinking nearly doubled the odds of ineffective contraception. When you're under the influence, it's harder to use a condom correctly, even if you do remember it.

Drinking too much can also make you throw up. A pill you took as long as 2 hours ago can come back up, and then it's as if you never took it at all.

Birth Control Pills Slow Alcohol Metabolism

Oral contraceptives do affect how your body processes alcohol. Like some other drugs, birth control pills slow down the rate at which your body absorbs it, making it linger longer. And the longer you're under the influence, the more time there is to forget to take your pill, too.

Think Before You Drink

If you plan to imbibe, the way to stay on track with your birth control is to plan ahead. Even if it’s a spur-of-the-moment round of drinks, you can still take a second to set an alarm on your phone or talk to your partner about a backup method should the mood strike.

  • Reminder apps. You can find a wide variety of these with a web search. Some can help you with any birth control method. Many can track your period and even your pill inventory.
  • Take your pill early in the day instead of the evening, when impromptu events might come up.
  • Carry backup protection such as a condom and spermicide. Ask your partner to support your efforts and do the same. You should always use condoms to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) unless you're in a long-term, faithful relationship.
  • Choose a low-maintenance -- aka “get-it-and forget-it” -- type of contraception:
    • IUD: It’s a small device your doctor places in your uterus, which can provide birth control for 3-10 years.
    • Implant: A tiny, matchstick-sized rod that releases hormones. Your doctor inserts it under the skin of your arm. It can be effective for as long as 3 years.

You can remove either one if you change your mind about birth control or don’t like it.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on June 17, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Alcohol Addiction Centers: "Can Alcohol Lower the Effectiveness of Birth Control?"

“Spot On Period Tracker,” “What are the Benefits of IUDs?” “Birth Control Implant.”

Princeton University: “The Emergency Contraception Website.”

Psychology & Health: “Risk Drinking and Contraception Effectiveness Among College Women.”

Addiction: "Alcohol consumption and the intention to engage in unprotected sex: systematic review and meta‐analysis of experimental studies."

National Health Service: "What if I'm on the pill and I'm sick or have diarrhoea?"

Alcohol, Clinical and Experimental Research: “Ethanol Metabolism in Women Taking Oral Contraceptives.”

Her Campus at the University of Florida: “5 Birth Control Reminder Apps To Download.”

Office on Women’s Health: “Birth Control Methods.”

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center: "Would an IUD or birth control implant work for me?"

The Royal Women’s Hospital: “Contraception and Substance Use.”

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