Taking the Birth Control Pill While Pregnant

Will the Pill Harm the Baby?

Birth Control Pills While Pregnant
Taking Birth Control While Pregnant. Photo: Andersen Ross/Collection: Blend Images/Getty Images

You have been using the pill, but just found out that you are pregnant. Is your baby in any danger?

The answer is no, so don't worry if you have been taking your birth control because you didn't know you were pregnant. There's little to no evidence that shows exposing your baby to the hormones in birth control pills causes birth defects. Just stop taking your birth control pill after you find out that you're pregnant.

Even though it's super effective, you may become pregnant while using birth control pills (or other hormonal methods like the Patch or NuvaRing). If this has happened to you, you may be worrying if taking birth control pills may harm your baby. So, let's put your fears to rest.

Taking Birth Control While Pregnant

There is no evidence that shows that taking birth control while pregnant will hurt your baby. Using combination birth control pills or progestin-only birth control pills early in your pregnancy does not appear to increase the risk of birth defects or complications. But, it should be pointed out that there is some data that suggests if you are taking progestin-only pills when conception takes place, there is a higher chance that you will have an ectopic pregnancy (when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus).

What Should I Do if I'm Taking Birth Control While I'm Pregnant?

Even though using birth control pills will not harm your baby, it is not recommended that you continue taking birth control while pregnant.

So if you think you could be pregnant, you can take a pregnancy test to make sure. If the results say that you are pregnant, it is a good idea to stop taking the pill. If you can't take a pregnancy test right away, but still think you may be pregnant, try using another birth control method (like condoms, the sponge, spermicide, or female condoms) until you know for sure if you are or are not pregnant.

Common Myths

Some women believe that if they continue to take birth control pills while pregnant, the pill can cause an abortion. This is NOT true. If you use birth control pills while you are pregnant, the pill will not cause a miscarriage or termination. The hormones in the pill work to prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation or by causing the thickening of your cervical mucus. So they have no affect on a developing baby. 

Another myth that you may have heard is that using emergency contraception (like Plan B One-StepTake ActionMy WayNext Choice One Dose, or the AfterPill) while you are pregnant will terminate your pregnancy or hurt your baby. This is also NOT true. Research shows that if you use the morning-after pill after you have become pregnant, it will not harm your baby or cause an abortion.

Is There Any Birth Control That Will Harm My Baby?

For the most part, taking birth control while pregnant will not cause your baby any harm. This is especially true if you have been using birth control pills early in your pregnancy. But, if you have an IUD and become pregnant, you may be at risk for certain pregnancy complications. So, you should call your doctor right away if you find out you're pregnant while your IUD is still inserted.

There are also specific medications that can end your pregnancy. But, these medications are NOT considered to be birth control. RU486 (also known as the abortion pill) has been FDA-approved in the United States as a medical abortion option. If you become pregnant while using the pill and are not sure if you want to continue with your pregnancy, you can discuss your options with a doctor, counselor, or health educator at a family planning clinic. Dealing with an unintended pregnancy can be overwhelming, but there is no right or wrong choicewhen it comes down to it, you are the only one who can decide which option is the most right one for you.


One Last Thing to Keep in Mind

It's true that most research shows that using birth control while pregnant will not harm an existing pregnancy. But it is important to point out that there is not a lot of solid research on this topic. This is a difficult topic to study because researchers do not want to potentially hurt the women (or the growing fetuses) who participate in their studies. Also, since the pill is so ​effective, getting pregnant while on the pill is pretty rareso, it is difficult to find enough women to successfully examine this topic.

There has been one study that suggests that there may be an increased risk of low birth weight, preterm delivery, and/or congenital urinary tract abnormalities in the babies of women who use birth control while pregnant. But the medical community says that they do not actually see this take place with their patients. Even though there may be a few studies that have linked using the pill during pregnancy to birth control defects, all of the researchers point out that their findings may have simply happened been by chance. Based on all the research we do have, even the FDA says that using birth control pills while pregnant does not cause birth defects or harms a pregnancy.


Bracken MB. "Oral contraception and congenital malformations in offspring: A review and metaanalysis of the prospective studies." Obstetrics & Gynecology. 1990; 76(3, Part 2):552-557. 

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