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The contraceptive pill is one of the most reliable forms of contraception, but there are a few occasions when it might not work as expected. If you find yourself in one of the following situations, you may need to abstain from sex or use another form of contraception such as a condom until your pill is able to protect you again.
Some kinds of antibiotics, such as rifampicin and rifabutin, can interfere with hormonal contraceptives such as the pill. If you are prescribed an antibiotic, it is a good idea to ask your doctor for contraception advice. The doctor will be able to tell you if there is a risk the drug will stop your contraception from working. Although most antibiotics are compatible with the pill, it is best to be sure that you are protected.
If you are using an oral contraceptive it might not be absorbed properly if you’re experiencing symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhoea. You can’t be sure that you are getting the right dose of contraception, so you may not be protected against pregnancy until your digestive system settles down.
The contraceptive pill needs to be taken every day to ensure that you are protected. It should ideally be taken at the same time every day. If you forget to take a pill or you miss one for any reason, you might not be protected. However, the effects depend on the type of pill you are taking. Most contraceptive pills will continue to protect you if you only miss one dose, but missing two pills in a row could put you at risk of getting pregnant. Your doctor can provide personalised contraceptive advice for the pill you are taking and tell you what to do if you miss one or more doses.