Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team. Updated on December 18, 2020

Imagine this: you’re at a party, everyone around you is drinking, people are dancing in the living room, and you’re … holding a shot glass in one hand and your birth control pills in the other. While you’re tempted to join in the fun, you also want to make sure that your fun does not lead to unwanted pregnancy.

Although New Year’s and social gatherings might look different this year thanks to the socially distancing policies brought on by the pandemic, if you do choose to go to a party in your COVID bubble, here’s how to do so safely!

Before You Drink

First of all, you’re smart to consider whether it’s safe to drink alcohol while on birth control as there are a number of factors that can affect how birth control interacts with alcohol. Second, keep in mind that it’s up to you to determine the level of risk that you are comfortable with. Your personal risk tolerance might depend on your job, relationships, school, or a multitude of other circumstances. 

A decision that one of your friends makes might not make sense at all for you. It’s not lame or uncool to avoid drinking if you don’t want to take on that risk. If you feel pressured to drink, try to leave the environment if that is possible, or tell a friend that you feel uncomfortable.

Finally, remember that while ringing in the new year with a large group of friends might seem fun, everyone’s health and safety is the top priority right now as COVID cases continue to rise

Your decision to get together with others affects not only you but also your entire community. While getting tested for COVID before your party can reduce the risk, it doesn’t eliminate it. If you want to protect the health of those around you, consider socializing within a small bubble of close friends, or getting creative with virtual hangouts. Taking these steps will ensure that by next New Year’s, we’ll be able to celebrate with the friends we have been missing.

Chemical Interactions

If your New Year’s plans involve alcohol, and you’re worried about how your birth control will hold up, we have some good news for you. Alcohol doesn’t have a direct impact on the effectiveness of birth control! The ingredients that make birth control work are hormones, and these do not interact directly with the chemicals in alcohol

This is in contrast to other substances like St. John’s Wort, an herbal remedy, which can decrease the effectiveness of birth control. This means that small quantities of alcohol will typically not affect how well your birth control is able to protect you against pregnancy, no matter if you’re using the pill, patch, ring, implant, IUD, or shot.

Impaired Judgement

Just because alcohol doesn’t interact with birth control hormones doesn’t mean that drinking is completely safe. Depending on the circumstances, alcohol can still increase the failure rate of birth control.

No single form of birth control is 100% accurate, and a major factor that affects the effectiveness of birth control is human error. No matter how protective the hormones in your birth control pills are, if you don’t take them consistently, you could very easily become pregnant.

Light drinking will most likely not impair your judgement enough to use birth control incorrectly. However, moderate drinking can increase the failure rate of birth control. This is especially important to think about if you drink right before having sex. 

Drinking can lead people 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. You may also forget to take your birth control pills at the time that you usually take them. Not only would this put you at risk for pregnancy, but you’d also have to worry about STIs

If you’ve been binge drinking, you put yourself at a higher risk of failing to use birth control or misusing it, which may cause an unintended pregnancy or STI. (Keep in mind that binge drinking for women is defined as at least four drinks within two hours and five drinks for men). Plus, if you drink so much that you throw up, your birth control pills may no longer be effective. 

Only one missed pill can cause you to ovulate, making you vulnerable for pregnancy. If this happens, and you have your pills on hand, take another pill to replace the hormones that you have lost. While this might seem simple to remember, if you end up in a situation like this, your judgement might be impaired by alcohol. It would then be difficult to realize how potentially serious the situation is, and you might forget to take another pill. For this reason, it is always best to avoid moderate to heavy drinking. Your body will thank you!

Your Birth Control Options

If you think that situations involving drinking will be hard to avoid, it might be time to consider a birth control method other than pills that you don’t have to think about regularly. In terms of maintenance, the IUD is the most straightforward method, since it does not need to be changed for up to 10 years after it is inserted.

That way, even if your judgement is impaired, you can rest assured that your IUD will protect you. The implant, ring, and shot also don’t need to be maintained daily, and might be good options for you.

Processing Alcohol

While human error is a significant factor to consider when it comes to alcohol and birth control, you should also know that hormonal birth control can affect how quickly alcohol is removed 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, leading to higher blood alcohol levels. 

If you are on the pill, these hormones can increase your level of intoxication. As a result, you may need to drink less to avoid getting sick. It’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on how many drinks you’ve had, but this is even more important if you’re on birth control.

Getting Help with Pandia Health 

If you want your birth control pill, patch, or ring delivered for FREE to your mailbox, check out Pandia Health’s delivery service. Order up to a year’s supply of your desired prescription sent directly to your mailbox with automatic renewals to get that #PandiaPeaceOfMind.

If you live in CA, FL, TX, WY, CO, or AZ, you can schedule an online consultation, and one of our expert doctors will write you a new prescription. For those who have an existing prescription, we can transfer it into our system so you can #SkipTheTrip to the pharmacy. 

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Disclaimer: The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment