Feeling sick or nauseous can be very distressing. If you can’t keep any food down, you may be worried about vomiting after taking your birth control pill. But what are the risks of getting pregnant if you’re sick?
It’s rare to feel sick from taking the pill, but if you’ve caught a bug or are experiencing sickness that lasts longer than 24 hours, here’s what you need to know.
The combined contraceptive pill
If you are on the combined pill (containing estrogen and progesterone) and you vomit 2 hours or more after taking an active pill, you will still be protected from pregnancy. If you are currently taking the inactive pills or are on the 7-day break, you have nothing to worry about and are fully protected.
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If you vomit within 2 hours of taking the active pill, consider it as a missed pill. In that case, take another active pill as soon as you feel better and are not at risk of throwing up again.
In case of ongoing vomiting (24 hours or longer), it’s best to use extra protection like condoms during sex. If possible, try to continue to take your pill regularly, but if you can’t, just make sure you use extra protection during and within 7 days after your illness subsides.
If your sickness lasts longer than three days and you’re worried about contraception, consult a doctor or healthcare provider.
The progesterone-only (mini) pill
If you are taking the progesterone-only pill (mini pill) and you vomit 2 hours or more after taking the active pill, you are still protected from getting pregnant.
If you vomit within 2 hours of taking the pill, treat it as a missed pill and take another one as soon as you can. If you feel too sick to take a replacement pill within 3 hours of your usual time, make sure to use extra protection during sex for at least 48 hours.
If you’ve been sick for over 24 hours, the protective effect of the mini pill is reduced. Try to continue to take the mini pill as normal. If that fails and your stomach keeps on turning, make sure you use a back-up method during your illness and and 48 hours after.
If your sickness continues and you are unsure what to do about birth control, speak to your healthcare provider.
If you experience lasting diarrhea
When you’re suffering diarrhea that lasts longer than 24 hours, the foods and medications you take aren’t as readily absorbed into the bloodstream. This may prevent your birth control from being properly absorbed and weaken its protective effects.
Therefore, the same rules apply: use a back-up contraceptive method if you experience diarrhea for more than 1 day.
- Cooper DB, Adigun R, Mahdy H. Oral Contraceptive Pills. [Updated 2019 Aug 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430882/
- FSRH Clinical Guideline: Combined Hormonal Contraception (January 2019, Amended July 2019) - Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare. (2019). Fsrh.org. Retrieved October 19, 2019, from <https://www.fsrh.org/standards-and-guidance/documents/combined-hormonal-contraception/>
- Does Having Diarrhea Mean That Your Birth Control Pills Won't Work?. (2019). Verywell Health. Retrieved October 19, 2019, from <https://www.verywellhealth.com/does-ibs-diarrhea-affect-birth-control-pills-1945373>
Reviewed by Dr Roy Kedem, MD
Information last reviewed 07/12/21