Can I Take Birth Control While Pregnant?

Woman holding birth control pills

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You can generally count on your birth control to prevent pregnancy, but it is possible to get pregnant while taking it. If you were taking birth control when you found out you were pregnant, you may need some time to soak it all in! You also may wonder whether your birth control might have had a negative effect on your developing fetus. 

Research indicates that hormonal birth control taken early in pregnancy does not have adverse effects on the baby, so rest assured you have not caused any harm.

“About one to three in 100 women could still get pregnant using the pill,” notes Kerry-Anne Perkins, MD, an OB-GYN on the medical review board of Women’s Health Interactive. “However, studies show that the likelihood that it may lead to congenital malformations or birth defects is extremely low.”

It’s still important to stop taking your birth control once you find out you are pregnant. No research has studied the effects of hormonal birth control later in pregnancy and, as hormones play a major role in pregnancy, there is reason to believe birth control hormones may affect pregnancy.

Moreover, birth control is not necessary during pregnancy because you generally cannot get pregnant again while you are already pregnant. 

What Is Birth Control?

Birth control is anything that is used to prevent pregnancy from occurring. There are various methods of birth control, including barrier methods, timing methods, and hormonal methods.

Barrier methods, like condoms, block sperm from entering the vagina so an egg won’t be fertilized. To use timing methods, couples identify a fertile window and use a barrier method or abstain from sex during it.

Hormonal birth control uses hormones to prevent ovulation and sometimes also to thicken the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from getting through. You can take hormonal birth control in pill form or in continuous release from, such as a patch, ring, or implant.

“The combined pill…arguably the most common form of hormonal birth control, works by preventing ovulation,” explains Dr. Perkins. “It provides you with a fixed amount of estrogen and progestin, replacing the hormones your ovaries would normally be making.”

Is It Safe to Take Birth Control During Pregnancy?

Pregnant individuals are advised to stop taking their birth control pills or have continuous release hormonal birth control removed when they find out they are pregnant. Not enough research has been done on taking birth control throughout pregnancy to say whether it is safe. “Remember that any medication you take affects the normal function of your body, especially hormonally, and may pass to your unborn baby,” notes Dr. Perkins.

Preventing pregnancy is no longer a concern when you are already pregnant. It’s near impossible to conceive while you are expecting, and in the extremely rare cases that it could happen, it has to be very close to the first time you conceived.

If you are on birth control to manage premenstrual symptoms or painful periods, this won’t be an issue either because periods stop during pregnancy. 

If you take the pill to manage acne, migraines, or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) symptoms, talk with a healthcare provider about other options. You might also find that pregnancy hormones help your symptoms similarly to how birth control did. 

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about taking birth control while pregnant.

What If I Take Birth Control Before Realizing I’m Pregnant?

The main time you might take birth control while pregnant is while you didn’t realize you were pregnant. 

Hormonal birth control is almost 99% effective when used properly. And if you take birth control pills, the chance of missing a pill or taking it too late lowers this method’s effectiveness down to 91%. So there is a slim chance of getting pregnant while taking birth control. 

If you realize you are pregnant and you are on birth control, know that your fetus will be completely fine. Just stop taking your birth control or call your healthcare provider to have it removed. “While never advised, birth control pills have not been shown to be associated with an increased incidence of birth defects,” says Felice Gersh, MD, an award-winning OB/GYN specializing in all aspects of women’s health. 

No studies have looked at the effects hormonal birth control might have later in pregnancy. Plus, you no longer need to prevent pregnancy because you don’t ovulate while pregnant. 

Risks of Birth Control While Pregnant

No studies have been done to prove whether birth control is safe later in pregnancy, mainly because pregnancy is not a time to prevent pregnancy. However, some people might take birth control for reasons other than pregnancy prevention. 

If this is true for you, you should stop taking birth control if you get pregnant. The process of pregnancy is run by hormones. Knowing this, we can infer that taking anything that disrupts the body’s hormonal balance might not be a safe option. 

“The hormones they contain...are designed specifically to interfere with the normal production and function of ovarian hormones, for the purpose of preventing fertility and conception,” explains Dr. Gersh. "It is possible that they may affect the development of the endocrine system by affecting the function of hormone receptors.”

When Can I Resume Taking Birth Control? 

You can resume taking birth control after giving birth. Your healthcare provider may discuss birth control options with you at your six-week postpartum check-up. If you are breastfeeding, there are some types of birth control that you should not use. Ask a healthcare provider if you have questions about using hormonal birth control while breastfeeding.

A Word From Verywell

Birth control is not necessary or recommended to take while pregnant. If you find out you are pregnant and you are on birth control, stop taking it or have it removed. That being said, there is no need to worry about birth control you took early in your pregnancy—studies show that this won’t negatively affect a fetus. Reach out to a healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about using birth control while pregnant.

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4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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