Can you get pregnant on the pill?

This is what can cause the birth control pill to fail.
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August 8, 2023
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TL;DR: Yes — you can get pregnant on the contraceptive pill. That said, the pill is still one of the most effective methods of contraception when used correctly.

But what exactly does using the pill correctly entail and how can you make sure that it is as reliable as possible? Let’s dive a little deeper into this topic, so you know how to lower your risk of an unwanted pregnancy.

How can you get pregnant on the pill?

When you first find out that you can get pregnant on the pill, it’s a little shocking. After all, the reason you take contraception is precisely so that you don’t get pregnant.

The truth is that apart from abstinence, no contraceptive is 100% foolproof. However, when taken correctly, birth control pills are over 99% effective and therefore one of the best contraceptives out there.

So, the million-dollar question is, what can cause the birth control pill to fail?

Well, there are a few possible scenarios here. You can get pregnant while on the pill if you:

  • Get sick and don’t properly ingest your contraceptive pill
  • Forget to take it
  • Take it at a totally different time each day
  • Take medication that interacts with it
  • Forget to start the new pill pack straight after a break

How can you prevent pregnancy on the pill?

Luckily, there are some simple precautions and tips you can follow to decrease the risk of getting pregnant on the pill.

Remember to take it

We know, we know — it sounds so obvious! However, forgetting to take the pill is one of the easiest ways to render it ineffective.

But as we mentioned before, when used absolutely perfectly, birth control pills work as expected in the vast majority of cases. In fact, fewer than 1 in every 100 women will get pregnant on the pill, which is a major incentive to remember to take it properly [1].

So, try your best to take the pill every day, and follow the instructions exactly as they are listed on the pack.

If you need to, set up a reminder on your phone. Chances are that eventually, taking the pill will become a natural part of your daily routine and you'll remember to do it without even thinking about it.

Kin's pill subscription makes getting the pill easy and you'll never have to worry about running out. A Kin membership includes free and fast delivery of your contraception to your door two weeks before you run out (or earlier if you prefer).

And, this means no more trips to the doctors or chemist — simply complete a text-based consult with our Aussie health practitioners and you'll have your pill in no time.

Take precautions if you miss a pill or vomit

Even if you’re trying your absolute best to take the pill correctly, life can get in the way sometimes. Though missing a pill or vomiting while on it isn’t a big deal, there are a few precautions you should take if it does happen.

The time windows for missing a dose are 24 hours for the combined pill and 3 hours for the progestin-only variety (a.k.a. the mini pill), so if you miss these windows you need to use protection or refrain from intercourse [2][3].

Likewise, if you’re sick, it's not worth the risk, and you should consider using alternative contraception. You are able to take another pill after you vomit, and as long as you’re not sick again, you’ll be protected. However, when the risk is an unwanted pregnancy, the stakes are quite high.

What the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends

In addition to all of this, the RACGP also has official guidelines for what to do if you miss your pill.

According to these guidelines, a "late" pill is one taken less than 24 hours late. In this case, it's recommended that you take the "late" hormone pill as soon as possible, and then continue taking your prescription as usual. Yes, this means 2 pills can be taken on the same day, with no additional contraceptive required.

If you're beyond the 24-hour period, this is called a "missed pill." In this situation, you should still take your most recent dose but discard your previously missed pills.

Then, continue your prescription as you regularly would, keeping in mind that additional contraceptive methods like condoms or not having sex at all are required until you have taken 7 consecutive active pills.

Check for potential interactions with other medications

If you’re on a new medication, your doctor should tell you whether it interacts with the pill. More often than not, it won't, but just to be on the safe side it’s worth looking into it yourself or asking your doctor directly.

Take the pill at a regular time each day

Taking the pill around the same time every day will make it more reliable. Not only will you be more likely to remember to take it, but you’ll also reduce the risk of hormone fluctuation and therefore keep your body on track.

Can you get pregnant if you vomit on the pill?

Yes, it can happen. It isn’t always the case, but vomiting or having diarrhoea can reduce the pill's effectiveness [4].

Here's a general rule: if you throw up within 2 hours of taking the pill, it won’t be absorbed into your system yet and, as such, you may be at risk of unwanted pregnancy.

To avoid this, count each day of sickness as a missed pill day. Continue to take it as normal, but keep in mind that if the sickness is ongoing you'll need to use extra protection for up to a week.

How do I know if I am pregnant on the pill?

We know that the contraceptive pill isn't always 100% effective at preventing pregnancy, but what signs indicate that you are, in fact, expecting?

Common symptoms include:

What's tricky about these symptoms is that they're quite similar to the side effects of the birth control pill.

The best way to confirm whether or not you're pregnant is by taking a pregnancy test — which you can find in Kin's Conceiving Essentials, which is not only 99% accurate and easy to use but can also detect early pregnancy, within 7 weeks of your last menstrual period.

If you find out that you are pregnant, remember that there are options and you should always do what is best for you, whether that is to proceed with the pregnancy or not.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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