If you’re not ready to start or add to your family, there are a variety of birth control methods available to you and your partner. To maximize the effectiveness of any birth control method, it’s important to use it as directed. But no one’s perfect, right? In fact, almost half of all pregnancies in the United States every year are unplanned.
The team at Boro Park OB/GYN in Brooklyn, New York, share the four most common birth control mistakes and how to avoid or remedy them.
You forget to take the pill
The pill continues to be the most common form of birth control. It’s easy to use and it’s 99% effective if taken at the same time every day. The pill also offers relief from perimenopause symptoms such as hot flashes and irregular periods. But one of the problems with birth control pills is that it’s so easy to forget to take them every day — and taking them at different times each day can also lower their effectiveness.
What to do: To avoid forgetting, try setting an alarm on your phone for the same time every day to remind you. If that doesn’t work, consider swapping out your pills for a long-acting reversible method such as an IUD that doesn’t require any daily action on your part. If you forget your pill, call your doctor for recommendations on what to do and to find out how long you need to use a secondary method of birth control such as a condom.
You take a medication that interferes with your birth control
Even if you’re really good about taking your birth control pill every day at the same time, certain medications and herbal supplements can make the pill less effective. These medications might include anti-seizure medications, antibiotics, and supplements such as St. John’s Wort.
What to do: Be sure to tell your primary care physician which form of birth control you’re on when being treated for an illness, and notify your OB/GYN of any other medications or supplements you take, even on occasion, when receiving a prescription for a new birth control pill.
You use the wrong lubricant
Lubricants are common during intercourse, especially in combination with condoms. They can enhance sexual pleasure and decrease friction. However, many oil-based lubricants such as Vaseline, baby oil, and certain lotions can break down latex condoms, making them more prone to tears, breaks, and rips.
What to do: Use water-based or silicone-based lubricants with condoms.
You don’t use condoms to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STI)
As mentioned above, the pill is 99% effective at protecting against unwanted pregnancies, and IUDs are even more effective than birth control pills. But neither of these options protects against STIs, and neither do birth control patches, shots, or implants.
What to do: The only way to protect against STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and AIDS is by using a condom. Even if you’re using some form of birth control to prevent pregnancy, you still need a condom if you want protection against these diseases. Plus, condoms have a lower efficacy rate than many other forms of birth control, so doubling up on protection is a great way to prevent both pregnancy and an STI.