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Women on the Pill Need Not Worry about Allergy Season Antibiotics

PHOTO: A belief that birth control pill effectiveness can be reduced by antibiotics is largely a misunderstanding, according to Planned Parenthood Arizona. Photo credit: National Organization for Women.
PHOTO: A belief that birth control pill effectiveness can be reduced by antibiotics is largely a misunderstanding, according to Planned Parenthood Arizona. Photo credit: National Organization for Women.
April 3, 2014

PHOENIX - It's the season for allergies and sinus infections, and there's a concern among women that fighting the sniffles with antibiotics can reduce the effectiveness of their birth control pills. According to Planned Parenthood Arizona physician Dr. Laura Dalton, that belief is largely a "misunderstanding." She said there's only one class of antibiotic, commonly used to treat tuberculosis and known as Rifampin, that decreases contraceptive effectiveness.

"We don't have any evidence from studies that show the other types of antibiotics affect the concentration of contraception in the bloodstream," the physician said.

But Dalton cautioned that side effects from antibiotics, such as vomiting or excessive diarrhea, can affect the absorption of birth control medications.

She said a woman's physician should be knowledgeable, both about contraception and whatever medical condition the patient is being treated for.

"If you have other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and make sure that provider can give you the right precautions for any side effects that you may develop beyond those medications, and if the birth control method that you're using is the right method for whatever preexisting conditions you have, or any new medications they may be prescribing," that should suffice, she said.

Dalton said it's always safer and more effective to use two forms of birth control, whether a woman is taking an antibiotic or not.

"At Planned Parenthood, we always recommend that you use the barrier method, or a condom, to protect yourself against sexually-transmitted infections, in addition to using other forms of contraception, such as birth control pills or IUDs," she advised.

Dalton noted that Planned Parenthood now provides primary care services at three of its Phoenix area centers, in addition to family planning.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ