Most adults in the U.S. will drink alcohol at least once in their lifetime. 56% of all U.S. adults report drinking alcohol within the past month. The good news for women who use birth control to prevent conception is that alcohol does not have a direct impact on birth control effectiveness. But, alcohol use can increase the failure rate of birth control, but why and how does this happen? The following article will explore the different types of birth control, their effectiveness rates, and how drinking alcohol can influence those rates.

How many women in the U.S. use birth control?

How Does Alcohol Effect Birth Control?

99% of all women of reproductive age have used at least one form of birth control during their lifetimes. There are many different types of birth control methods, and each one has a different effectiveness rate. But, no single birth control method is 100% effective. Also, human error can lower birth control effectiveness, and this is where drinking and alcohol use can influence how well a particular birth control method works.

What are the different types of birth control options and their effectiveness rates?

There are five different types of birth control options that range in effectiveness when used properly.

1. Hormonal

  • The birth control pill has an effectiveness rate of 91%.
  • Depo-Provera, an injection, has a rate of 94%.
  • The vaginal ring has an effectiveness rate of 91%.
  • The birth control patch has an effectiveness rate of 91%.

2. Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)

  • Copper IUDs are effective 99.2% of the time.
  • Hormonal IUDs are effective 99.8% of the time.

3. Barrier Methods

  • Male condoms are effective 82% of the time.
  • Female condoms are effective 79% of the time.
  • Diaphragms have an effectiveness rate of 88%
  • Spermicides are effective 72% of the time.
  • Sponges are effective 88% of the time or 72% if the user has had children before.
  • Both female and male sterilization is effective 99.5% of the time and 99.8% of the time, respectively.

4. Natural Methods

  • Abstinence-only has no reliable rate established with typical use.
  • The LAM method is effective between 72% and 88% of the time.
  • Fertility awareness method is effective 76% of the time.
  • The withdrawal method is 78% effective.
  • Using no method of birth control is effective at preventing pregnancy 15% of the time.

5. Emergency Contraceptive

  • Emergency contraceptives are effective between 89% and 95% of the time.

How can alcohol impact birth control effectiveness rates?

It’s true that alcohol does not have a direct impact on how birth control works. Alcohol does not interfere with the hormones in some birth control products. But alcohol can interfere with birth control in different ways. For women who take birth control pills or use natural methods or barrier methods, alcohol use can impact birth control effectiveness, especially if a woman is taking the birth control pill. Up to 16% of all women of reproductive age in the U.S. use birth control pills, and they are the most common form of birth control.

In most cases, light drinking will not impair or cloud a person’s judgment enough for them to use birth control incorrectly. However, it’s essential that people are especially careful with how they use birth control if they drink before having sexual intercourse. Even moderate drinking can increase failure rates.

If someone has been binge drinking, they are at high risk of failing to use birth control or misusing it and risking an unintended pregnancy or STI. Binge drinking for women is defined as at least four drinks within two hours. For men, it is five drinks. A drink is defined as either 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.

For example, If someone drinks too much alcohol within two hours of taking a birth control pill and they vomit, then the contraceptive will be ineffective. In this instance, they could take another birth control pill, but alcohol can impair their judgment so much that they will either forget or not realize how potentially serious the situation is and skip retaking the pill.

Another way in which alcohol can affect birth control effectiveness is that alcohol lowers a person’s inhibitions. Drinking can lead them to do things that they usually wouldn’t do when they are sober. Someone who has been drinking heavily may throw caution to the wind with a sexual partner and not use a condom, or they could be so impaired that they don’t realize they are having unprotected sex.

Hormonal birth control can also affect how quickly alcohol is eliminated and processed in the body. Some of the hormones in many popular birth control pills can change the way water is distributed throughout the body, and can actually lead to higher blood alcohol levels. This can increase someone’s level of intoxication if they are on birth control pills. For women who take birth control pills and want to drink, it’s important to remember that the pills can increase intoxication levels more quickly than if they were not on hormonal birth control. They may need to drink less to avoid getting sick.

What happens if a woman forgets to take a birth control pill?

Skipping or missing even one dose of birth control can cause ovulation to occur. If a woman skips a pill, it’s vital to use a backup form of birth control during sex for at least one month.

When used correctly and consistently, birth control pills are highly effective at preventing unintended pregnancy. Fortunately, it’s becoming easier and more convenient for women to access safe, effective contraception from innovative companies like Pandia Health. If you plan to drink while taking birth control, always drink responsibly and use a backup contraceptive just in case.

Disclaimer:The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Pandia Health, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.