Is it possible to get pregnant on the pill? Yes.
While there is not any method of birth control which is 100 percent guaranteed, oral contraceptives are one of the most effective ones available. In fact, when a woman correctly uses birth control pills which contain both progestin and estrogen, she has a near-100% probability of avoiding pregnancy per year. Even when a woman occasionally forgets to take her pills, the annual effective rate of oral contraception remains at a fairly high level of around 91 percent – but statistically, that still means 9 women out of a 100 experience an unintended pregnancy every year.
Over a 3 year time period the risk for unintended pregnancy with typical use is over 24x greater than with consistent, perfect use.
The vast majority of women who do conceive while on the pill report missing two or more pills within a one-month period or they were using prescription drugs like antibiotics or anti-depressants. Overall, 25 out of 100 women become pregnant after a three-year period of typical birth control pill use. Here the keyword is ‘typical use’, which means missing the pill occasionally.
If taken perfectly (roughly same time every day, no missed pills), the same statistic is 1 pregnancy for every 100 women. Over a three-year time period, the risk for unintended pregnancy with typical use is therefore 24x greater than with perfect use.
What Should a Woman Do If She Gets Pregnant on the Pill
Any woman who believes that she may be pregnant while taking the pill should immediately stop using oral contraceptives and schedule an appointment with her doctor. The doctor can confirm whether she is pregnant and can discuss all the options and answer any questions or concerns.
As long as a woman catches her pregnancy soon enough, termination is still possible, if that is what the woman decides is the best option. A woman who decides to carry the baby to term needs to ensure that she is taking all the precautions necessary to give the child the best possible chance in life.
The Dangers of Getting Pregnant While Taking Birth Control
Many soon-to-be mothers worry that if they conceive a child while using birth control pills, there is a much higher percentage that the pregnancy will end in either a miscarriage or a stillbirth. This is not true. But there are health problems which may develop for women who conceive while using oral contraceptives.
One of the greatest dangers of getting pregnant on the pill is mistaking the signs of pregnancy as one of the side effects of using this form of contraception. This can delay prenatal care and lead to other health risks for both the mother and the unborn child. These signs can include missing a period, breast tenderness and nausea. Women who suddenly develop any of these symptoms after using the pill for a few months with no problems should speak with a doctor to determine the cause.
The FDA has not officially verified any direct links between oral contraceptives and birth defects.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not officially verified any direct links between continuing to take oral contraceptives and birth defects. A study on birth defects and oral contraception in Denmark seemed to coincide with the FDA’s stance.
In the Danish study, children of mothers who unknowingly used birth control pills during the early portion of their pregnancy had no more birth defects than the general population. But, on the other hand, some studies suggest oral contraceptives can increase the chance of an ectopic pregnancy where the child develops outside of the womb, or in a rare birth defect which affects male babies (called hypospadias).
These are only guidelines and it is important to speak with your doctor about any medical issues which might concern you.
Mikko Törmä is certified pharmacist and has over 15 years experience in pharmaceutical industry, pharmacy and has worked also in Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Mikko is a professional writer who’s main focus is to make medical science simple to read and understandable, so that ordinary people can easily benefit from the research & recommendations made by professionals. His deepest interest is in the public health and to provide fair access to primary health care for everyone.