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The Pill vs. Allergy Antibiotics: Nothing to Sneeze At

PHOTO: A belief that birth control pill effectiveness can be reduced by antibiotics is largely a misunderstanding, according to Planned Parenthood. 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. Photo credit: National Organization for Women.
April 7, 2014

PORTLAND, Maine - It's the season for allergies and sinus infections. However, some women are worried that fighting the sniffles with antibiotics can reduce the effectiveness of their birth control pills.

Planned Parenthood physician Laura Dalton said that belief is largely a "misunderstanding." According to Dalton, only one class of antibiotic, commonly used to treat tuberculosis and known as Rifampin, decreases contraceptive effectiveness.

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

However, Dalton cautioned, side effects from antibiotics, such as nausea or excessive diarrhea, can affect the absorption of birth-control medications.

A woman's physician should be knowledgeable, both about contraception and about whatever medical condition the patient is being treated for, she added.

"If you have other health conditions such as hypertension or diabetes," she said, "make sure that provider can give you the right precautions for any side-effects you may develop due to being on those medications, and can tell you whether the birth control method you're using is the right method for any preexisting conditions you have or for any new medications they may be prescribing."

Dalton also advised that it is 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 condom, to protect yourself against sexually-transmitted infections, in addition to using other forms of contraception such as birth control pills or an IUD," Dalton explained.


Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME