Can Alcohol Make Birth Control Less Effective?

    Dr. Leah Millheiser, MD Headshot
    Medically reviewed by Leah Millheiser, MD Written by Our Editorial Team Last updated 10/24/2019

    From social drinks with your friends, colleagues or family to parties and other special events, drinking alcohol is something that’s part of most people’s lives. 

    For the most part, drinking alcohol won’t affect your use of birth control. However, there are a few specific risks of alcohol use that you should be aware of if you use the pill as your hormonal contraception of choice.

    Below, we’ve covered everything you need to know about drinking while using the pill, from how alcohol affects birth control to specific things you’ll need to be aware of before you enjoy a cocktail, beer or glass of wine while using the pill. 

    Does Alcohol Make Birth Control Less Effective?

    There’s no known link between alcohol and the effectiveness of birth control, meaning you can have a drink without worrying about the pill becoming less effective.

    Despite this, it is possible for alcohol to affect the way you use the pill and make it less likely to fully protect you from pregnancy. Here’s how:

    • When you’re drunk, it’s easy to forget to take your birth control pill every day. It’s far from uncommon to forget to take your pill after waking up hungover. It’s also easy to forget to take your pill after drinking alcohol if you normally take it in the evening.

    • If you forget to take your pill, your risk of becoming pregnant increases.

    • If you drink a significant amount and go to bed drunk, it’s easy to sleep past the time you normally take your birth control pill in the morning. It’s especially important not to miss your normal pill taking time if you use a progestin-only pill, because taking it later than usual — even by as little as three hours — could increase your risk of getting pregnant.
    • If you drink a large amount of alcohol and vomit after taking your pill, there’s a chance that the hormones in the pill might not be fully absorbed by your body.

    If you’re going out for a night with friends, to a party or to any other event at which you think you’ll be drinking alcohol, it’s a good idea to set a reminder to help you take your birth control at the appropriate time. 

    If you’re worried about forgetting your pill, consider having a backup form of contraception ready. Let your partner know that you’d prefer to use a condom or other barrier method of birth control that night — this way, you’ll still be protected if you forget your birth control pill. 

    Alcohol and Safe Sex

    Finally, it’s easy to forget the importance of safe sex when you’ve been drinking alcohol. While the birth control pill will protect you from pregnancy when used correctly, it doesn’t provide any protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

    If you meet someone while you’re out with friends or in any other situation in which you’ve been drinking alcohol and decide to have sex, it’s important to make sure you’re protected. Keeping a condom in your purse is an easy way to have one ready when the moment is right.

    Tips for Drinking Alcohol While Using Birth Control

    While alcohol can affect your birth control habits, it doesn’t need to. Use the tips below to keep yourself protected from pregnancy while you enjoy a night out or drinks with your friends, family or colleagues:

    • Carry a barrier-based form of contraception. It’s easy to forget that the birth control pill doesn’t provide protection from STIs, especially when you’re tipsy or drunk. If you think you might have sex, make sure you carry a condom or two in your purse as a backup form of birth control and to protect against STIs.
    • Set a daily alarm to remind you about your pill. If you’re concerned that you might sleep through your normal morning routine, set up an alarm on your phone to remind you to wake up and take your birth control pill.
    • Avoid drinking to excess. Drinking excessively may cause you to vomit, making your birth control pill less effective if you took it shortly before drinking. Drinking excessively can also increase your risk of feeling hungover the next day, causing you to forget your birth control pill.

      The best way to avoid these problems is to limit your alcohol consumption. Know your limits and drink responsibly to avoid an unpleasant morning after a night out.
    • Explain the issue to your partner. If you’re worried about alcohol affecting your birth control’s effectiveness, let your partner know. Explain to them that you’d prefer to use a condom after drinking in case your birth control pill isn’t 100 percent effective. If you forget to take your progestin-only pill, even by just three hours, it’s important to use a back-up form of contraception (e.g., condom) for the next two days.
    • Change your birth control timing. If you drink frequently and sleep in as a result, you may want to change the time you take your birth control to midday to avoid missing any pills due to hangovers or tiredness.

    • Consider an alternative form of birth control. Birth control options such as the IUD, Depo-Provera and implant don’t need to be taken every day, meaning they could be a better option if you drink alcohol often and forget to take your daily pill.

    While we don’t recommend drinking to excess every night, an occasional glass of wine, beer or a mixed drink is unlikely to cause an issue with your birth control. The tips above can help you enjoy a night out without excessive worry about your birth control. 



    This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.