If you’ve been taking birth control pills and find out you’re pregnant, you may be wondering if this could harm your baby, or if it could lead to a miscarriage or stillbirth.
Most studies show you don’t have to worry. Some types of birth control can cause complications, but in most cases, the pill or other hormone-delivery devices (such as the Ortho Evra patch or NuvaRing) are relatively safe.
Contraceptives and Birth Defects
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is no evidence that taking combination birth control pills or progestin-only pills during pregnancy will harm your baby in any way, whether by increasing the risk of birth defects or causing pregnancy complications disease.
It’s important to note that there isn’t much research on this topic. This is not due to negligence or lack of interest. Medical ethics does not allow anyone to conduct research that could harm a mother or her unborn baby.
Most of the data come from epidemiological studies comparing mothers who used birth control pills in early pregnancy with mothers who did not. In this regard, there was little difference in the number of birth defects, miscarriages or stillbirths between the two groups.
The CDC states that taking progestins early in pregnancy slightly increases a boy’s risk of hypospadias (a birth defect in which the opening of the urethra is not at the tip of the penis). However, the studies that led to this conclusion were earlier, and most were women taking progestins to treat infertility or prevent miscarriage, rather than the low-dose progestins found in birth control pills.
If you think you may be pregnant
Continued use of birth control is still not recommended if you are pregnant. Finally, every drug you take is also “taken” by your child.
Therefore, if you think you may be pregnant, take a pregnancy test to find out. If you cannot get a pregnancy test for any reason, consider using other forms of birth control (such as condoms or sponges) until you can.
pregnancy during family planning
While abstinence is the only birth control method that is guaranteed to be 100% effective in preventing pregnancy, perfect use of contraceptives is almost 100% effective. Perfect use means using the pill correctly every time, while typical use can lead to common human errors, such as forgetting to take the pill on time.
Perfectly used, the birth control pill has a success rate of over 99%. Under typical use, the pill is about 91 percent effective. Perfect use of condoms is about 98% effective, while typical use is about 82%.
Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as the intrauterine device (IUD) and permanent contraceptive methods such as IVF are more than 99% effective.
Birth Control and Abortion Myths
Most birth control methods do not cause any harm to the unborn child when used early in pregnancy. There are some common misconceptions about the difference between birth control pills and medical abortion pills.
Some people believe that if they continue to take birth control pills during pregnancy, they may have a miscarriage. This is not true, and there has never been any evidence of it. Taking birth control pills during pregnancy does not cause miscarriage.
Hormones in birth control pills prevent sperm from entering the uterus by blocking ovulation and thickening cervical mucus. In early pregnancy, these behaviors do not lead to miscarriage or stillbirth.
Another myth is that using emergency contraception (such as Plan B One-Step or AfterPill) during pregnancy may cause your pregnancy to end naturally. This is not true. Once a fertilized egg is implanted, these pills are really ineffective.
There are specific medications that can terminate a pregnancy if needed. This is a form of medical abortion and is not considered birth control. Medical abortion works through a different method than hormonal contraception. Known as Mifeprex (mifepristone) or RU-486, the abortion pill has been FDA-approved in the United States since 2000.
Risks of continuing birth control
Using certain birth control methods during pregnancy can cause harm. Below is a breakdown of common birth control methods used during pregnancy and their risks.
COC or progestin-only pills
Combined estrogen-progestin oral contraceptives (COCs) and progestin-only contraceptives are two different types of birth control pills. COC contains synthetic forms of estrogen and progesterone, while progestin-only pills contain only synthetic progesterone.
While there’s no evidence that birth defects or miscarriage can occur if you take birth control pills during pregnancy, some studies suggest that babies may be at increased risk for wheezing, asthma, and rhinitis.
Complications may occur if you have an IUD and become pregnant. Research shows that if a person chooses to keep the IUD in it during pregnancy, their risk of miscarriage increases to around 40%. Additionally, it can increase the likelihood of preterm birth by about 500%.
Given these risks, if you become pregnant and decide to continue your pregnancy, you should call your healthcare provider right away to have your IUD removed. Early removal of the IUD can reduce these risks.
Risks of pregnancy with an IUD
Implants, injections and vaginal rings
There is no evidence that birth defects or miscarriages can result if someone uses birth control methods such as implants, needles and vaginal rings early in pregnancy. These forms of birth control usually use the same types of hormones that are found in birth control pills.
Progestin-only birth control may slightly increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy if pregnancy cannot be prevented. However, the absolute risk of ectopic pregnancy is not high compared to not using the pill.
An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants outside the lining of the uterus (the lining of the uterus).
Symptoms may include:
- low back pain
- abdominal or pelvic pain
- abnormal vaginal bleeding
Consult a healthcare professional if you have abnormal vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain.
Severe, sudden pain in the pelvis or abdomen, shoulder pain, or fainting are serious symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy that require immediate medical attention. These symptoms may indicate that the fallopian tubes have ruptured.
There are no risks in using barrier methods such as condoms, diaphragms, spermicides, cervical caps, and sponges during pregnancy. These methods are used to physically prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg and usually do not involve hormones. Using condoms during pregnancy can prevent sexually transmitted infections.
The risk of accidental use of birth control pills in early pregnancy is low. If you are pregnant, discuss any medications, supplements, and over-the-counter products with your healthcare provider. When you find out you are pregnant, you should stop taking birth control pills.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if you continue to use birth control during pregnancy?
Studies have shown that there is a risk of miscarriage and premature birth if the IUD is left on during pregnancy. However, there is no evidence that using other forms of birth control in early pregnancy poses serious risks.