Birth Control Pills and the Connection to Miscarriage

What to know about birth control pills and miscarriage

Verywell / Jo Zixuan Zhou 

Many women who experience a pregnancy loss wonder if their birth control pills could have caused the miscarriage. Others wonder if they can terminate a pregnancy with birth control pills.

The answers to these questions depend on many factors, including the type of birth control pills and other hormonal contraception and when they are used.

Using Birth Control Pills Prior to Conception 

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, taking birth control pills before getting pregnant does not cause early pregnancy loss. If you experienced a miscarriage and were taking oral contraceptives prior to conceiving, that was not the cause. This is a common worry, but be assured these two events are not related.

If You Conceived While on Birth Control

When used appropriately, most types of birth control pills are considered 98% to 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. Yet sometimes, even with perfect usage, women get pregnant while taking the pill. This is more likely if they forget to take pills, for example, or if they are using medications that decrease the effectiveness of the pill. If you find yourself pregnant while on the pill, you should discontinue the pill.

A large 2008 study examined a registry of 92,719 women and found no evidence of increased risk of fetal death in babies exposed to artificial hormones during pregnancy. As well, a 2010 study in Epidemiology found no increased risk for most types of major birth defects in women who used oral contraceptives in early pregnancy.

Using the Pill to End a Pregnancy

The birth control pill is not used to terminate an existing pregnancy. The morning-after pill (post-coital contraception, or "plan B") comes in multiple formulations including several "birth control pill" formulations. These options do not cause miscarriage or abortion but rather prevent conception in the first place.

If you are considering emergency contraception within a few days after unprotected intercourse, talk to a physician or pharmacist right away. They can help guide you through this process safely and effectively.

A Word From Verywell

Despite common misconceptions, there is little scientific evidence that taking birth control pills prior to pregnancy or accidentally taking birth control pills during early pregnancy causes fetal death or birth defects. Still, be sure to discuss your worries and address personal questions about contraception and pregnancy with your doctor.

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  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Early pregnancy loss. Updated August 2015.

  2. Jellesen R, Strandberg-Larsen K, Jørgensen T, Olsen J, Thulstrup AM, Andersen AM. Maternal use of oral contraceptives and risk of fetal death. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2008;22(4):334-40. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3016.2008.00942.x

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