Knowledge is power, and if you want to have power over your monthly hormones, you should know what will keep them in check, and what will cause them to go haywire. Birth control is a very effective form of contraceptive, as well as a solution for mood swings, acne, and mild to severe cramping. However, there are a lot of external factors that can sabotage its effectiveness, leaving you with either bad cramps and terrible skin, or one person heavier. Regardless of the reason behind your birth control use, here are a handful of things you should avoid if you want it to work.


Most of us are aware that the easiest way to mess up your birth control is forgetting to take a pill, but you should know how important it is to take them at the same time every day. Depending on the type and the brand, the effectiveness of your birth control can drop from 95% to 85% or lower. Additionally, an irregular birth control schedule causes severe fluctuation in your hormones, which might lead to cramps, irregular periods, and mood swings – all of which you’re trying to avoid, right? Set an alarm on your phone for a time of day when you are ALWAYS awake, and make sure you take your pill every day!

Anti-Tuberculosis Medications (Rifampin, Tetracycline)

Perhaps you’ve been exposed to the tuberculosis during your time volunteering at an orphanage in the Andes over Spring Break, or maybe a tragic accident at the hospital caused some form of contamination. If you come down with the tuberculosis infection, you’ll probably have to take Rifampin to cure it. If you’re also taking birth control and are sexually active, you might come home from that orphanage trip with more than just a few extra pathogens living in your body. This drug to treat tuberculosis is known to decrease the contraceptive abilities of birth control pills. Be sure to use a back up method of contraception if you ever have to take medication for travel-related pathogens!

Antibiotics (Amoxicillin, Ampicillin)

There’s evidence showing that there are a number of antibiotics on the market that may cause problems with your oral contraceptives, including those derived from penicillin. There are a variety of reasons for taking antibiotics – from minor skin rashes to seriously infectious diseases. Either way, you want to be sure your antibiotics aren’t going to cancel out your birth control, so be sure to ask your doctor before starting new medication. Both amoxicillin and ampicillin are linked to reducing the effectiveness of birth control pills, and are commonly prescribed for treating bacterial urinary tract infections. The good news is that you’re probably not getting down with a UTI anyway.

Diet Pills

The research behind the use and side effects of diet pills is nothing if not disorganized. If you want to take diet pills that increase your metabolism, there’s a chance that they will cause your body to metabolize your birth control more quickly as well. There isn’t a lot of legitimate research that says yay or nay on this topic, so I’d avoid the diet pills if you want to be sure your birth control will work. Another thing to consider is that diet pills aren’t regulated in the United States, meaning they might contain 50% of the active ingredient listed on the label, and 50% mod-podge of anything from herbs to sawdust, and these filler items might cancel out the effectiveness of your pill. Either way, if you take something unregulated, use a back-up method of contraception.

Herbal or Natural Supplements

Unfortunately, these natural supplements are often the ones that cause the most harm to other medications. There are many supplements, such as Maca root, that are used by millions of women around the world, but turn the body into a breeding ground for ailments when mixed with hormone therapies. The FDA does not regulate supplements in the United States, and, well, they’re not actually regulated by anyone. This means there’s no real way to know what’s in the bottle, or how it might affect your body, your hormones, or your birth control. We also don’t have a lot of research into these natural remedies, meaning we just don’t have the information to say if they’re safe or not. If you are 100% sure that you know the exact amounts of active ingredients AND fillers in your supplements, you might be okay. Otherwise, its best to use a back-up contraceptive while you’re taking unregulated supplements.

For more information about what alters your birth control, visit Women’s Health or WebMD.