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Can you have unprotected sex on the pill?

22nd April 2020

Everyone likes to be protected and when it comes to women and unwanted pregnancy, the contraceptive pill is a great way of doing this. But does that mean you can then have unprotected sex?

Can you have unprotected sex on the pill?

If you’re taking the contraceptive pill then by definition, the sex is not unprotected (as you’re using a method of contraception). You should therefore be able to have sex without using any additional protection such as condoms.

Whether it be the combined pill or the progestogen-only pill (also known as the mini pill), both of these methods provide effective protection against falling pregnant and have an efficiency rate of around 99.9%. 

However, in actual day-to-day use, the effectiveness is around 93%. This is based on the fact that women occasionally miss a pill or two throughout their cycle or perhaps don’t take it at exactly the same time every day.

Can you have unprotected sex during your pill break?

If you’re on the kind of combined contraceptive pill where you take one pill a day for 21 consecutive days and then have a 7 day pill-free break, then there may be some confusion about whether or not it’s safe to have sex when you’re not taking any pills.

The answer is yes. The way in which the pill works is to change your hormone levels with synthetic versions to prevent ovulation and make it harder for a sperm to reach an egg. Because of the way the pill works, provided you’ve been taking it properly, the protection against pregnancy includes the 7 day period where you aren’t taking any tablets.

When shouldn’t I have unprotected sex?

The pill may be a highly effective form of birth control but it does not protect you 100%. If you have forgotten to take your pill, you should take it as soon as you remember. If you’ve forgotten to take your pill for 2 days running then again, you should take the missed pills as soon as you remember. However, if you have forgotten your pill for 3 days running then this is when you will need to use additional contraception (like condoms) to protect against pregnancy.

You will also need to use condoms if you vomit after taking your pill or suffer from a bout of diarrhoea. This is because either scenario can affect how the pill is absorbed and may make it less effective.

The exact instructions for each contraceptive pill varies based on the hormones, brand and type so always be sure to check the patient information leaflet before taking it.

It’s also important to remember that hormonal methods of contraception (such as the pill) are only effective in preventing pregnancy. They have absolutely no effect on sexually transmitted infections such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea.

If you and your sexual partner have both had a full sexual health screening and have both been cleared, then you’re safe to have sex without condoms. However, if your partner is a casual, non-monogamous or new one then you should use barrier protection to prevent not only pregnancy, but STI’s too.