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Alcohol and Birth Control: What You Need to Know

Alcohol and Birth Control: What You Need to Know

Some substances can combine with birth control and make it ineffective. Some people may ask, "Does alcohol affect birth control?"

If you’re taking birth control, it’s important to understand how your medication works, as well as what substances might interact with it and make it less effective. For those who drink, there may be concerns over mixing alcohol and birth control. So, does alcohol affect birth control? Learn the answer below, and if you struggle with alcohol misuse, you may benefit from working with Confidant Health for alcohol rehab and medication assisted treatment to help you stop or reduce your drinking. 

What is birth control?

When people think of birth control, they often imagine “the pill.” While this is one form of birth control, there are actually numerous birth control options on the market. 

Birth control is an umbrella term used to describe medications and other methods that prevent pregnancy. There is not one single method of birth control that is 100% effective, and the best option for you depends upon your unique needs and health history.

The various birth control methods work in different ways to reduce the likelihood of pregnancy. 

What are the types of birth control?

There are multiple birth control options available. Some of them are prescription medications or devices that must be prescribed by a doctor; others can be purchased over-the-counter at a pharmacy. Finally, some birth control methods are described as “natural” and do not require any sort of medical product.

The different types of birth control are described in more detail below.


Surgical procedures can be performed on both men and women, and they are designed to be permanent. These procedures prevent fertilization of the egg by cutting or damaging the tubes responsible for carrying the sperm or the egg. 

Long-Acting Contraceptives

Long-acting contraceptives (LACs) are reversible birth control methods. This method can include implanting a device in the uterus or implantation of hormonal devices in the body. 

One example of an LAC is Nexplanon, a hormonal device that is implanted under the skin in the arm. This device works by slowly releasing the hormone progestin into the body. This hormone stops the egg from being released from the ovary, and it makes the lining of the uterus thicker to make it difficult for an egg to implant. Finally, Nexplanon thickens cervical mucus to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg. 

Another option under this category is an IUD (intrauterine device), which is a T-shaped plastic product placed inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy. A copper IUD like Paragard doesn’t contain hormones and can prevent pregnancy for up to 12 years. Hormonal devices like Mirena contain progestin and can prevent pregnancy for 3 to 6 years. 

Short-Acting Hormonal Methods

Short-term hormonal methods include pills, shots, patches, and vaginal rings. These methods work by stopping the ovaries from releasing eggs or by preventing the sperm from reaching the egg. 

Barrier Methods

Barrier methods of birth control are available over-the-counter at most drug stores and mass retailers. Perhaps the most common barrier method is the use of a condom. Other methods include diaphragms, sponges, and cervical caps. 

Natural Methods 

Natural birth control methods do not use any form of medication, or any product to prevent pregnancy. Instead, these methods rely on timing sex so that a couple does not have intercourse when a woman is most fertile, or on the male “pulling out” prior to ejaculation.

Both of these methods can be risky. Timing sex so that it does not occur when a woman is most fertile requires tracking the monthly cycle, so a couple can determine when a woman is likely to be ovulating. This method is not guaranteed, because it is possible to mistrack the ovulation window, and some women may have irregular cycles, which means ovulation does not occur at the same time each month. 

The rhythm method, which involves timing sex and avoiding it during the most fertile window, has a failure rate of 13.9% over the course of a year, meaning that nearly 14% of couples who use this method will become pregnant. Furthermore, about 1 out of 5 people who use the “pull out method” will become pregnant over the course of a year. 

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Does alcohol make birth control ineffective? 

So, does alcohol affect birth control? When people ask this question, what they are often wondering is if alcohol will cancel out the effects of their birth control, or make it ineffective. Using alcohol with birth control will not interact with the medication in any way that makes it ineffective; however, it may indirectly make birth control less effective, not by interacting chemically with alcohol, but by leading to behaviors that can increase the risk of pregnancy. 

In summary, alcohol will not change the way that birth control methods like IUDs, patches, implants, or the pill work. 

How can alcohol possibly affect your birth control?

While alcohol will not chemically react with birth control in any way that makes the medication ineffective, it can cause some behaviors that lead to increased risk of pregnancy. Some of these risky behaviors that can indirectly lead to problems related to drinking on birth control are discussed below.  


If you’re taking the birth control pill, your body needs to absorb the medication for it to be effective. If you drink heavily and then vomit within two hours of taking your birth control pill, it may not be effective. If you worry that you have vomited too soon after taking your pill, take another as soon as possible or contact your healthcare provider for further instruction. 

Unprotected Sex

Research has shown that people who consume alcohol have greater intentions of engaging in unprotected sex. This means that if you rely upon condoms as your primary method of birth control, you may forgo them when under the influence, increasing your risk of becoming pregnant. 

Since alcohol impairs your judgment, you may also be more likely to forgo “pulling out” or refraining from sex during your fertile window if you are under the influence. 


A night of heavy drinking can lead to a hangover the next morning, which will leave you feeling fatigued, weak, irritable, and in pain. Hangovers can also impair your thinking and decision-making, so you may forget to take your birth control pill. 

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How to Avoid Birth Control Failure When You Drink Alcohol 

If you drink while on birth control, you usually don’t have to worry about alcohol interacting with your medication. However, heavy drinking can cause side effects and behavioral changes that can lead to birth control failure. 

If you want to ensure that your birth control will be effective, follow these steps for drinking on birth control:

  • Avoid heavy drinking or binge drinking, which increases your risk of vomiting, and can make the birth control pill ineffective. 
  • Drink in moderation if you choose to drink. This means a limit of two drinks per day for a man and one per day for a woman. Keeping drinking within reasonable limits reduces the likelihood of unprotected sex and other risky behaviors.
  • Consider a long-term birth control option, such as an IUD or an implantable device, if you are prone to forgetfulness and worry that you may forget to take the pill after a night out. 

Things to Consider When Drinking on Birth Control 

While birth control and alcohol can be used together, it’s important to understand that excessive drinking has a negative effect on health, even if it doesn’t have an effect on birth control. So, while you can drink alcohol on birth control, it’s important to avoid heavy drinking, or drinking to the point of intoxication.

Excessive drinking comes with numerous health risks, including elevated risk of motor vehicle crashes, cancer, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Drinking heavily also increases the risk of an alcohol use disorder, which is the clinical term for an alcohol addiction. An alcohol use disorder is a legitimate medical condition that causes changes in the brain and makes it difficult to stop drinking, even when alcohol misuse comes with serious consequences. 

Reduce Problem Drinking With Confidant Health 

If drinking is starting to interfere with your daily life, or it’s leading to health-related consequences, such as risky or unprotected sex, you may benefit from working with an alcohol rehab program to help you reduce problem drinking. 

At Confidant Health, we offer virtual recovery resources, so you can begin treatment from the comfort and convenience of home. We also offer medication assisted treatment, which can reduce your alcohol cravings and make it easier for you to stay committed to recovery. 

Download our app today to get connected with the various resources offered through Confidant Health. We’re on both the App Store and the Google Play Store. 

This article has been medically reviewed by
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Nurse Practitioner

Erin is a Nurse Practitioner with 8 years of experience in midwifery and women's health. She has spent the past 5 years specializing in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders.

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