We live in a day and age that has delivered incredible advances in medical innovation. The birth control pill is one such advance, bringing with it a peace of mind for women who are seeking to avoid conception. The pill boasts an amazing 99% rate of success when used properly. 

However, many women are not aware that there are several common factors that can cause its effectiveness to plummet. To ensure that your birth control remains successful, make sure that none of these external risk factors are potentially interfering with your pill.

1. Medications

One of the most common factors that can cause the contraceptive pill to lose its effectiveness is the potential interference from other medications. Consult your doctor if you are taking any of these medications, which have been documented as lessening the pill’s success rate. In addition, use a certain level of caution when introducing any new medication to your body, and be sure to read the insert of your prescription to see if it lists any potential interference with your birth control.

2. Natural Supplements

Natural supplements can also affect the pill’s success rate. St. John’s wort, used to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety, is the most common offender and is known to drastically reduce the effectiveness of the pill by breaking down estrogen within your body. Do your research and speak with your doctor about all the natural supplements and remedies you use to make sure that they will not interfere with your contraceptive measures.

3. Increased BMI

Women with an elevated BMI have a much higher chance of becoming pregnant while on the pill. Research shows that women who are overweight are 60% more likely to become pregnant, and 70% more likely if they are obsese. If you fall into one of these categories, your doctor may choose to put you on a higher dosage of birth control or encourage you to use back-up measures to prevent conception.

4. Bowel or Digestive Issues

Whether you have chronic bowel issues or have lately experienced a stomach virus, it is wise to use back-up contraception to ensure maximum effectiveness. Digestive issues can cause the pill to pass through your system too quickly before it is able to release the hormones needed to guard against pregnancy. If you have recently fallen victim to a stomach bug, be sure to consult your doctor about using additional preventative measures for the remainder of your cycle. If you have a chronic bowel issue, speak to your doctor about whether the pill is the best choice for you.

5. Smoking

Smoking affects your body’s estrogen levels, which in turn can drastically interfere with the effectiveness of the pill. In addition, studies have shown that smoking while on the pill increases your risk of severe health complications such as blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes. Cigarettes and the birth control pill should not be used in conjunction. Talk to your doctor about methods that can help you stop smoking, if that is your desire, or about other methods of birth control that will be more compatible with your lifestyle.

6. Dosage Issues

It should come as no surprise to learn that missed doses can interfere with the effectiveness of your birth control. In addition, it is important to take your pill around the same time every day for maximum protection — especially if you’re taking a progestin-only pill. The active ingredient in the pill does not stay in your system for much longer than 24 hours, allowing your body to become fertile again. It is crucial that you are prompt in taking your pill at the same time every day to make sure it can do its job properly. If you have missed a dose or taken it at the wrong time, give yourself peace of mind by using a back-up method of contraception for the remainder of your cycle.

A wide swath of unexpected issues can interfere with your birth control pill’s effectiveness. Doing a little bit of research about possible interactions with other medications or other external factors can go a long way in providing you with the best possible contraceptive protection. Modern medical technology has provided us with so much, but take care to account for human error and potential risk factors to ensure that your birth control is as effective as possible.