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10 ways your birth control can fail

If taken correctly, contraceptive pills, injections, condoms and implants are upto 99 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy, but there are no guarantees. Here are factors that could cause your pregnancy prevention method to go wrong, writes Evelyn Makena

1. Detox

Have you heard of detox babies? Well, these are unplanned babies conceived by mothers who undergo a detox regimen while on oral contraceptives. On a popular detox page on Facebook, several women, who were on contraceptives got pregnant while detoxing.

Detox stimulates the liver to expel toxins from the body. There are high chances that an oral pill is swept away along with other waste before it’s absorbed into the body rendering it ineffective in preventing pregnancy.

Pills work by causing changes to the estrogen and progesterone hormones to avoid conception. They are metabolised by the liver and rely on the absorption by the bowel for them to work.

2. Some herbal remedies

St John Wort is a plant used in treating depression-related conditions like anxiety. The herb can increase breakdown of estrogen. This increases the amount of the pill in the blood, thus decreasing its effectiveness.

The herb should be used with caution by those under contraception pills. To be safe, it’s recommended that one avoids the herb and discuss alternative herbal treatments with the prescriber.

3. Certain antibiotics

Specific antibiotics have been found to lower the efficacy of the pill. Rifampicin and rifabutin antibiotics used to treat diseases such as tuberculosis and meningitis have potential to reduce the effectiveness of this method of contraception.

It is advisable for one to check with their doctor if in doubt or use an alternative method of contraception while under these drugs. Certain medications used in treating HIV/Aids and epilepsy impact the amount of hormones in the blood reducing the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives.

4. Bowel disease

Bowel conditions may prevent the body from absorbing any form of oral medication properly. When these bowel conditions cause diarrhoea, it interferes with the body’s ability to absorb hormones or increase the rate at which they are broken down decreasing their effectiveness.

According to the Mayo Clinic, an American medical centre, if someone has a diarrhoea that persists for two or more days they should act as though they missed the pill.

5. Throwing up

Illness, alcohol and food poisoning can all cause someone to vomit.  If this happens within two hours of taking a pill, it compromises its effectiveness since it will not have been absorbed. In case this happens one is advised to take another pill as soon as they feel well. The next pill should be taken at the normal time.

6. HIV, diabetes meds

Before prescribing new birth control pills your doctor will ask about whether you are currently on any medication because some medications just don’t work well together. Antіdерrеѕѕаntѕ ѕuсh аѕ Prоzас and Zoloft, аѕ well аѕ dіаbеtіс mеdісаtіоnѕ like Avandia have bееn lіѕtеd аmоng thоѕе that limit thе еffесtіvеnеѕѕ of mоѕt contraceptives.

If уоu’rе tаkіng anti-HIV mеdісаtіоn, the effectiveness of hоrmоnаl birth control pills mау be compromised. Also some anti-fungal and anti-seizure medication may have issues with birth control pills and vice versa. They increase breakdown of hormones in the pills possibly making them less effective.

7. Condom complications

Only a week ago, two condom brands were recalled from the market for being substandard. The condoms were found to have holes and burst easily, raising concerns about circulation of fake products in the Kenyan market.

For those who may have relied on such products for contraception, it would lead to an automatic fail. Condoms of poor quality not only expose people to unwanted pregnancies but also expose users to sexually transmitted conditions like HIV/Aids.

8. Some foods

When eaten in excess, certain foods are likely to interact with birth control pills. Hormone affecting foods such as yams and soy may prevent contraceptives from functioning properly and cause unplanned pregnancies. Soy contains a compound that disrupts hormones while yams increase the level of progesterone in the body.

9. Smoking

Combined effects of nicotine and birth control pills can cause so many things to go wrong. This combination potentially increases the chances of getting a stroke and a heart attack.

This is because nicotine causes blood pressure to rise and the heart rate to increase.  The pill on the other hand adds tension to the blood vessels due to the extra estrogen.  Smoking while on the pill will, therefore, expose you to a stroke, a heart attack and possibly an unplanned pregnancy.

10. Bad timing

Timing is paramount to get best results from oral contraception. It’s best to take oral pills  the same time everyday since this helps hormones to have a consistent effect on the body and the cycle to prevent ovulation.

This applies, especially for pills with progesterone only. The progesterone only pill should be taken within a three-hour period everyday to ensure optimum protection.

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