Why you should be careful with alcohol while taking birth control pills

The modern contraceptive methods in Uganda today according to the World Health Organisation comprise of female sterilization, male sterilization, pills, Implants, male condoms, female condoms, IntraUterine Devices (IUD), Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) and emergency contraception.

Despite the several varieties, the combined oral contraceptive is the commonest birth control method in Uganda. Typically, medications are safe and effective when used appropriately. Alcohol alone can make you sleepy and lightheaded. Drinking alcohol while taking medicines can intensify these effects.

According to Dr Ndozire Katali, the pills are medications and it is important to note that several prescription medicines can interact with alcohol and the combination can be very dangerous.

Mixing alcohol with medications can cause nausea and vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, rapid heartbeat, fainting, or loss of coordination. It also can put you at risk for internal bleeding, heart problems, sudden changes in blood pressure and difficulties in breathing.  Sometimes, it can lead to liver toxicity which can be fatal.

Dr Ndozire warns that, “I would not advise anyone to take alcohol while taking any medication. The impact could be reducing the potency of the drug hence failure of the pills to do their work. It could also worsen the side effects of the drug when combined with alcohol.”

If you vomit after taking a contraceptive pill, you may spew the pill in the vomit and this increases your chances of becoming pregnant. When you get drunk, you might even forget to take the pill at all and when you have unprotected sex, you can become pregnant.

When a woman drinks, the alcohol in her bloodstream typically reaches a higher level than a man’s even if both are drinking the same amount. This is because women’s bodies generally have less water than men’s bodies. Because alcohol mixes with body water, a given amount of alcohol is more concentrated in a woman’s body than in a man’s. As a result, women are more susceptible to alcohol-related damage to organs such as the liver.

Mixing alcohol and medicines puts you at risk for dangerous reactions. Protect yourself by avoiding alcohol if you are taking medication and don’t know its effect. To learn more about a medicine and whether it will interact with alcohol, talk to your pharmacist or other health care provider.


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