Before any medication hits the pharmacy shelves, pharmaceutical companies are required to test the medication for stability and effectiveness over time. Based on the information gathered during this phase of testing, the pharmaceutical companies will provide an expiry date for each individual medication. For the birth control pill, the expiration date is generally 12-months.

Losing track of the expiry date of your birth control pills is easy, especially if you buy and store bulk packets. And, since we’re seeing an increase in women bulk buying oral birth control pills as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, access and limitations, we thought it was time for a refresher on birth control pill expiration 101. Because, unlike the side effects of taking an expired paracetamol (a lingering headache), the risks of ineffective birth control can potentially last a lifetime (or, a minimum of 18-years so we’re told).

Can you take an expired birth control pill?

In short, yes. However, this isn’t encouraged by health care professionals. When birth control pills expire, there can be some degradation of the active hormones and effectiveness cannot be guaranteed. If the pills have been stored correctly, there’s a possibility they will continue to be effective for 1-5 years after their expirations date. Once again, pharmaceutical companies cannot stand by the effectiveness of the pills once they’ve bypassed the date printed on the box. We repeat; you may still fall pregnant.

What happens if you take an expired birth control pill?

If the expiry date has recently lapsed and you don’t have an alternative, you could still take the expired pills. In this case, unplanned pregnancy becomes a risk so it’s a good idea to use a back-up contraception method like a good ol’ 98-percent trusty condom (disclaimer: 98-percent effective when used correctly). If the idea of the pill being less than 99-percent effective plays on your mind and you’ve had sex since your birth control expired, the morning after pill can provide peace of mind and be delivered same-day to your door if you live in Australia.

How to avoid having to take expired birth control pills?

Oh, you’ve come to the right place for birth control advice. If you’re guilty of stockpiling birth control pills for a rainy day, global pandemic, apocalypse, or whatever the universe serves up next, Youly’s contraception delivery service will be your new best friend. Following an online assessment and text-based doctor’s consult, our team will express post your monthly supply of birth control pills to your door. Our packaging is super discreet, and the best thing is that you’ll never have to remember to visit a pharmacy or store expired pills in your bathroom – we’ll take care of your repeats for you.

TL; DR – Taking expired birth control pills carries a major risk of unplanned pregnancy, so why take the risk? Always check the expiration date on your pills before you begin using them and chat to your doctor (or us) if you have any concerns. In the meantime, use back-up contraception.

This blog is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your medical practitioner.