The short answer is that yes, you can get pregnant while taking the contraceptive pill. But of course it’s not as simple as that. Generally, if you take the pill correctly you won’t get pregnant. But illness, medications and simply forgetting or taking it late can all lower its effectiveness.
Birth control pills are generally around 99.5 percent effective when taken properly. That means that fewer than one woman in a hundred will conceive while taking it. User error (i.e. you taking it a bit late or forgetting one day) lowers the average effectiveness to around 95 percent.
[Related article: Contraceptives - what are your choices?]
When should you use alternative contraception?
If you forget to take the pill, you’ll need to use condoms or an alternative contraceptive for seven days, to be on the safe side. This is also the case if you have an upset stomach, vomiting or diarrhoea. Some pills vary on the time you have to take the pill if you’ve forgotten it, so make sure you read the instructions if you ever change your brand or type of pill.
No contraception is 100 percent effective so pay attention to your body and keep an eye on any unusual signs. If you do conceive on the pill, studies have suggested there are no side effects of continuing to take it before you realise you are pregnant, so there’s no need to panic about harming your baby.
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