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Can You Have Unprotected Sex on the Pill?

Reviewed by
Date published
07/03/2022
Date last updated
01/03/2022
Length of read
5 Minutes

For many women, taking contraceptive pills can often reduce the stress and anxiety of unplanned pregnancies, but the level of protection the pills offer can still leave users feeling confused. Does taking the pill mean you can have unprotected sex?

Taking the contraceptive pill is a method of contraception, which means you are protected, to an extent, when having sex. However, it’s important to remember that no contraceptive pill is entirely efficient in protecting against falling pregnant.

Whether you take the combined pill or the mini pill (progestogen-only pill), the efficiency rate is around 99.9% - so very high, but not 100%. In day-to-day use, this effectiveness decreases to approximately 93%. The reason for this decline is that the majority of women will either miss a pill (or more) throughout their cycle or will be unable to take the pill at the same time every day.

Can You Have Unprotected Sex During Your Pill Break?

A lot of women can find it confusing when assessing the safety of having sex when not taking any pills. This can occur if you’re on a combined contraceptive pill, as this results in you taking the pill for 21 consecutive days, before having a 7-day break from taking the tablet.

As long as you’ve been taking the pill correctly as directed, the protection against pregnancy will include the 7-day period of not taking the tablet. This is because the pill works by changing hormone levels with synthetic varieties to stop ovulation, and in turn, makes it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg. As a result of this, as long as you’ve taken the pill correctly, it will still work in the 7-day break.

When Is It Not Safe To Have Unprotected Sex?

The pill is a hormonal method of contraception, which means it can be effective in preventing pregnancy, but this doesn’t mean it protects against sexually transmitted infections or diseases. It’s important to always remain safe, with regular sexual health screenings recommended to ensure you catch any infections early.

Both you and your partner should have full sexual health screenings in order to be absolutely confident in the safety of having sex without condoms. If your partner is new, casual or non-monogamous, however, then condoms should be used as a barrier of protection against sexually transmitted infections, such as Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia.

What Should I Do If I Forget To Take The Pill?

You should take your pill as soon as you remember to do so if you have previously forgotten to take a dose. This is the same if you’ve forgotten to take your pill for two consecutive days – take the missed pills as soon as you remember to do so.

If you’ve forgotten to take your pill for 3 consecutive days, however, then you’ll need to use additional contraception (such as condoms) in order to protect yourself against pregnancy. Likewise, if you vomit after taking your pill, or suffer from diarrhoea after taking it, you’ll too need to use additional contraception when having sex. This is due to both diarrhoea and vomiting having an effect on the way in which the pill has been absorbed in the body, with the possibility of it being less effective in protection.

All types of contraceptive pills are accompanied by a patient leaflet, so be sure to always read this before taking the tablets, so that you are aware of all the information.

How Does The Combined Pill Work?

While the pill prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (the process of ovulation), it also thickens the mucus in the neck of the womb, making it more difficult for sperm to penetrate the womb and reach an egg. The pill also thins the lining of the womb. This process means that there is less chance of a fertilised egg implanting into the womb and being able to then grow.

Can Anyone Take The Pill?

Hormonal methods of contraception such as the pill are not suitable for everyone. It’s important to speak to your GP about your eligibility for the pill, as many different factors can affect the suitability of the medication for each individual. While these factors can vary from person to person, common circumstances include smoking status, age, weight and medical history. The pill may also not be suitable for women who are already taking other medication for certain conditions.

While certain hormonal methods may not be suitable, your doctor will be able to provide you with alternative pills and methods of contraception, so it’s important to book an appointment with them if you’d like to discuss other options. Likewise, if you’re currently taking a pill that you’d like to stop, be sure to speak to your doctor about when it is safe to do so.