Antibiotics and contraceptives are two different categories of drugs. But, it is believed that some antibiotics can interact with birth control pills, and thereby reduce their efficacy.
Birth control or contraceptive pills are the medications used to prevent pregnancy or conception. Birth control pills are considered one of the most effective methods of family planning that helps avoid unplanned pregnancies.
The oral contraceptive pills contain the hormones estrogen and progesterone, in order to control ovulation. Ovulation is the process of releasing an egg from the ovary. If ovulation does not take place, fertilization, i.e, pregnancy cannot occur. On the other hand, antibiotics are the drugs that are primarily used for destroying bacteria. So, they are primarily used for treating bacterial infections.
The Effects of Antibiotics on Oral Contraceptives
Due to a lack of enough scientific evidence, it is not known with certainty whether antibiotics can reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptive pills. The entire issue is a bit controversial.
Over the years, many cases of unexpected pregnancies have been reported by women who were using both the drugs simultaneously. So, it is suspected that some antibiotics may have the ability to reduce the potency of oral contraceptive pills. But there are not enough medical research or studies conducted to prove the suspected link between these two drugs.
It is believed that some birth control pills have low dosage of hormones, and hence their effects on the body may get overpowered by the effects of the strong antibiotics. Another possibility is that some medications, like antibiotics can affect the liver’s ability to breakdown hormones like estrogen. An increase in the breakdown of estrogen, as stimulated by the antibiotics, can lower the level of this hormone in the body. This in turn, can reduce the efficacy of the oral contraceptive pills.
Again, antibiotics can kill both harmful and beneficial bacteria that reside in the human intestine. As has been mentioned already, the liver breaks down estrogen into other chemicals, which are then passed down the intestine. In the intestine, these chemicals are converted to active estrogen by the intestinal bacteria. Therefore, the efficacy of oral contraceptives to a great extent depends on the intestinal bacteria, and hence their destruction can reduce the effectiveness of these pills. In addition to these, some women may experience menstrual irregularities while taking antibiotics and oral contraceptives simultaneously.
Drugs That Can Interact With Oral Contraceptives
Among antibiotics, rifampin has been found to have an effect on the efficacy of oral contraceptives. Other antibiotics that can interact with oral contraceptives are, penicillin, amoxicillin, tetracycline, griseofulvin, minocycline, sulfonamide, co-trimoxazole, nitrofurantoin, and ampicillin. Apart from antibiotics, several other medications can also interact with birth control pills. For example, phenobarbital is believed to have an effect on the efficacy of oral contraceptive pills. Phenobarbital is basically a sedative that is used for the treatment of sleep disorders, anxiety, and tension.
Though there are not enough evidence to support the assumption that antibiotics reduce the efficacy of oral contraceptives, it is better to be on the safer side. So, women who do not want unplanned pregnancies can consider alternative birth control methods while taking antibiotics. However, this does not mean that they cannot continue with their oral contraceptives. Instead, they can take the help of both oral contraceptives and other birth control methods, rather than relying only on birth control pills.