The pill is a reliable method of contraception. However in some circumstances you can still get pregnant despite taking the pill. How would you know and what can you do? If you stop taking the pill, when can you get pregnant?
The pill is a very reliable means of contraception. If you take it regularly each day at the same time and you are not sick or are taking antibiotics, the chance of falling pregnant is practically zero. Pregnancy can occur in some women who take the pill reliably but this is extremely rare.
Reduced reliability: diarrhea, vomiting and medicines
There are situations when the pill is less reliable. For example if you take the pill just before having sexual intercourse. The pill only works effectively if you take it each day of your menstrual cycle. The effectiveness is also reduced if you forget to take a pill. The pill suppresses the release of an ovum. Forgetting to take a pill may result in ovulation. If you notice you have forgotten a pill, complete the strip but take extra precaution by using another form of contraception such as condoms. You can reduce the chance of forgetting a pill if you take it daily at a consistent time. For example, each morning after you have cleaned your teeth or each evening as you go to bed. Keeping the strip of pills by the bathroom sink or on the bedside table will also help to remind you to take it each morning or evening.
Diarrhea, vomiting or taking medicines can also reduce the reliability of the pill. If you vomit or have diarrhea within 4 hours of taking the pill take another pill from a reserve strip. If you vomit or have diarrhea more than 4 hours after taking the pill the effectiveness is not reduced as the hormones have been absorbed into your body.
If you are using antibiotics the pill is less reliable. Even if the GP has not indicated this, a warning will be given in the instructions which come with the medicine. You can continue to take the pill as normal but use another means of contraception as well.
The pill is not reliable:
- if you forget to take a pill
- if you only take the pill just before having sexual intercourse
- if you have diarrhea or vomit within 4 hours of taking the pill
- if you are using antibiotics
- as a means of protecting against sexually transmitted diseases.
On the pill but still pregnant
If you are on the pill but are in fact pregnant then it may take some time to notice this. You may continue to bleed each month as menstruation is being controlled by the pill. You will also experience some pregnancy symptoms but because these, at the start of pregnancy, are very similar to menstruation symptoms it may not be easily noticed. However these symptoms will become more obvious and the uterus will start to grow, so you will soon notice a larger tummy. At this point many women start to question if they may actually be pregnant. If you are on the pill you can still do a pregnancy test. The result is just as reliable whether on the pill or not so long as the test is carried out properly. If in any doubt contact your GP.
If you are on the pill but are pregnant it is not a danger to the fetus. However once you know you are pregnant you should stop taking the pill immediately.
Getting pregnant after stopping with the pill
If you want to get pregnant you may try as soon as you stop with taking the pill. There is no medical reason for waiting for a time after stopping. For most women their own natural cycle starts and there is no problem in getting pregnant. If you should get pregnant before you have a natural period after stopping the pill then this too is no problem. The expected due date for delivery can be calculated by the size of the fetus which can be measured by the gynecologist during an ultra sound scan. It is therefore not necessary to calculate the delivery date based on the first date of your last period.
Some women do not immediately start a period after stopping with the pill. Even though the menstrual cycle may start it can be irregular. If you have used a pill injection or hormone strip then it may take longer to return to a natural cycle.
When is the pill reliable?
When starting with the pill the precise moment you start determines the level of protection against pregnancy. If you start the first pill of the first strip on the first day of menstruation then you are fully protected against becoming pregnant. If you start any time after that, even day 2, the pill is not reliable for the duration of the first strip. Use an additional method of contraception. From the start of the second strip of pills the pill offers full and reliable protection.
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