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Does alcohol make birth control less effective?

bipoc female patient wearing an examination gown that is open in the back,  sitting on an exam table in a doctor's office

Having a few drinks doesn’t have to mean putting yourself at risk.

Let’s say you’re at a party (or a bar, or a booze-fueled picnic in the park…you get the idea) and you’re talking with someone you like A LOT. It’s obvious you both want to hook up.

But what about your birth control? Can the fact that you’ve been drinking make your birth control less effective? Here’s what we think you should know, and for answers to your specific questions (about birth control, alcohol, or anything else), make an appointment to talk to a provider at your nearest The Right Time health center.

Does drinking affect birth control?

There’s mixed scientific evidence about how alcohol impacts birth control use. If your IUDimplant, shot, ring, or patch are in place before you start drinking, alcohol will not make them less effective at preventing pregnancy. But remember, these methods don’t protect you from STIs. Luckily, condoms are portable even in the tiniest purse or pocket and may be available at bars and parties.

However, here’s how alcohol can affect birth control: some studies show that when alcohol is involved, birth control is discussed less often and condoms are used less, even in established relationships

Additionally, alcohol can interfere with your motor skills. If you use condoms, spermicide, or a diaphragm—any method that requires set up right before sex—the chance of using these methods improperly can increase, which can mean increased chances of pregnancy.

Wish you partied less?

If partying is interfering with your work, school, or relationships and you’d like some support in playing safer, Moderation Management and HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol are good resources.

Be safe and have fun!

Yvonne Piper, MLIS, MS, RN, FNP has her dream job as a primary care provider at Lyon-Martin Health Services in San Francisco, CA. She has TA'ed two rounds of UCSF’s Coursera class on Contraception and loves helping her patients choose the best birth control method for their crazy-busy lives. When she isn’t at work she can be found lifting at her Crossfit box, hanging out with her pet rats, or volunteering as a trainer with San Francisco Sex Information (SFSI).

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Our partner health centers are focused on you. They provide access to all methods of birth control and free or low-cost birth control to those who need it.