Can Birth Control Pills Cause a Miscarriage?

The Answer Depends On What You Mean By the Question

woman taking birth control pill
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Many women who experience a pregnancy loss wonder if their birth control pills could have caused the miscarriage. Some women, on the other hand, wonder if they can terminate a pregnancy with birth control pills. 

The answer to these question of whether birth control pills or other hormonal contraception can cause a miscarriage depends on what you mean by the question.

Can Taking Birth Control Pills Prior to Conception Cause a Miscarriage?

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, taking birth control pills before getting pregnant do not cause early pregnancy loss.

So if you experience a miscarriage and were taking oral contraceptives prior to conceiving, it is not your fault—this is a common worry, but be assured this is not related.

What If You Conceived While on Birth Control?

When used appropriately, most types of birth control pills are considered more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. Yet, sometimes women get pregnant while taking the pill. This can happen if they frequently forget to take the pill, for example, or if they are using medications that decrease the effectiveness of the pill.

There should not be an increased risk of miscarriage or any other problems with a pregnancy due to accidental exposure to hormonal birth control. A large 2008 study examined a registry of 92,719 women and found no evidence of increased risk of fetal death in babies exposed to artificial hormones during pregnancy.

Another 2010 study in Epidemiology found no increased risk for most types of major birth defects in women who used oral contraceptives in early pregnancy.

 Still, if you are in this situation and plan to keep the pregnancy, you should obviously stop taking the pill immediately. 

Using the Pill to End a Pregnancy

Finally, if you are facing an unwanted pregnancy, you may have heard that you can take large doses of birth control pills to end the pregnancy.

If you have already confirmed you're pregnant, this strategy is not likely to end your pregnancy. You will need to research other options.

Technically, it is true that taking a large number of birth control pills could work for emergency contraception if it's done within a few days after intercourse—but the effective dose would depend on the pill brand.  If you are considering emergency contraception within a few days after unprotected intercourse, talk to a physician or pharmacist right away. They can help guide you through this process safely and effectively. 

But by the time a pregnancy test comes back positive, a large dose of birth control hormones will probably not terminate the pregnancy. 

A Word From Verywell

Despite common misconceptions, there is little scientific evidence that taking birth control pills prior to pregnancy or accidentally taking birth control pills during early pregnancy causes fetal death or birth defects.

That being said, be sure to discuss your worries and address personal questions about contraception and pregnancy with your doctor.


American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. (August 2015). Early Pregnancy Loss. 

Jellesen R, Strandberg-Larsen K, Jørgensen T, Olsen J, Thulstrup AM, Andersen AM. (2008). Maternal use of oral contraceptives and risk of fetal death.  Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2008 Jul;22(4):334-40.

Office of Population Research & Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. (June 2016). Types of Emergency Contraception. 

Waller DK et al. Use of oral contraceptives in pregnancy and major structural birth defects in offspring. Epidemiology. 2010 Mar;21(2):232-9.

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