I’m on hormonal birth control…do I still need to use condoms?

Overkill, or just covering all of your bases? One of the most common questions from people who have just started using hormonal birth control like “the pill” is whether they need to keep using condoms, since the pill has a higher success rate than condoms for preventing pregnancy.

Yes, the pill is slightly more effective at preventing pregnancy than using condoms alone, but both the pill and condoms do have a failure rate — so using the two together can only cut that rate down. This can be especially important because both the pill and condoms are very effective if they’re used perfectly every time, but that doesn’t always happen. With the pill, some users end up occasionally taking it at the wrong time of day, or even forgetting a day once in awhile, and its effectiveness tends to go down. Using a condom as a second layer of protection can add a sense of security. On the other hand, if you’re at a point in your life where you’re not trying to conceive, but you feel prepared to handle pregnancy if you do, you might feel like losing condoms is a fair trade-off.

The other obvious reason to use condoms even while on birth control is the question of STIs, or sexually transmitted infections, which hormonal birth control doesn’t protect against. STIs can be caught from people who aren’t showing any symptoms, and sometimes even from people who don’t know they have them, so unless you’re in a monogamous sexual relationship with someone whose STI status you’re sure of, condoms are generally a good idea, whether you’re on birth control or not.

  • Robin Wallace, MD. “How to make sex safer in 4 simple steps.” Bedsider. National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Nov 2012. Web.
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