Traveling And Bringing Your Birth Control With You? Here Are 5 Things To Consider

·6 min read

When I first started traveling, I used to stress about the typical stuff; how to fit everything in my carry-on, how to make it to my connecting flight despite a short layover, and how to alleviate jet lag.

Now that I have more experience traveling, I’ve discovered other things that I never thought would impact my escapades around the globe. For example, birth control. You’d think it’s as easy as taking your pill daily as you usually do and nothing changes, right? Well, not necessarily.

I’ve been in nearly every situation imaginable. I’ve struggled to keep up with taking my birth control at my original time because I was in a completely different time zone. I’ve gotten food poisoning and puked shortly after swallowing my birth control. I’ve even completely run out of refills for my next pack of pills and didn’t realize it until after I already left for a baecation.

To avoid the mishaps I’ve gone through in the past, here are five things you should know about birth control while traveling, according to experts:

1.First, when crossing time zones, take your birth control pill every day during the timeframe from your original time zone.

A stock image of birth control pill packs on a green background

When taking the contraceptive pill, it’s essential that you ensure that you’re taking the pill every day at the same time. Giulia Guerrini, the lead pharmacist at the digital pharmacy, Medino, says, “This means that when you’re traveling across time zones, you need to ensure that you’re still taking your pill at the same time as your home time zone.”

“The progestogen-only pill must be taken within the same three hours each day and the desogestrel progestogen-only pill must be taken within the same 12 hours each day,” adds Guerrini.

And it's worth noting: Other forms of contraception, such as the ring and patch, are not as time-sensitive as the pill. Board-certified OBGYN, Daisy Ayim, MD, FACOG, explains that they are not as time-sensitive as the pill because they are not taken daily. “The ring is changed every three weeks and the patch is changed weekly. The duration of ring and patch are more flexible and convenient, which is great for traveling.”

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2.You can skip your period by starting a new pack of pills earlier, but there may be some drawbacks.

A woman with period blood spotting on her underwear

Staci Tanouye, MD, FACOG explains, “If you skip the placebo week, take your pills continuously, and skip your period, the pills are maintaining the same thin lining and continuing to prevent any thickening of the endometrium.” However, the downside to this is that the longer you continuously take your oral contraceptive pills, the more likely you are to get breakthrough bleeding and spotting due to a lining that's getting too thin and therefore unstable.

“It's not at all harmful, just annoying,” Tanouye elaborates.

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3.If you get food poisoning or are sick to your stomach within hours of consuming your birth control pill, you may need to take another one.

person on the couch sick

Tanouye elaborates that whether it’s vomiting or diarrhea, any kind of gastrointestinal (GI) illness could impair the absorption of your pill. Because of this, it's recommended to use a backup form of contraception, such as another pill, or use condoms if you’re sexually active.

“If you throw up 2–3 hours after taking your pill, it's likely fully absorbed and still effective,” says Dr. Tanouye. “If it's less than that, I would usually recommend taking another active pill unless someone thinks they will continue to throw up.”

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4.If you’ll be out of town when your refill is scheduled to arrive, the likelihood that you can get over-the-counter birth control varies significantly by country.

A TSA-scan of a travel bag with birth control and condoms inside

Being able to access birth control depends significantly on whether you’ll be remaining in the US or if you’re traveling out of the country. Jess Barra, Family Nurse Practioner at Favor, recommends talking to your healthcare provider or a licensed medical professional who can provide more information about how to get your prescription refilled if needed. “If you’re in the country, emergency refills can often be transferred from Favor to a local pharmacy, but there is the risk that insurance won’t cover it. If you’re traveling out of the country and you are not able to access your birth control abroad, use condoms or internal condoms to prevent pregnancy and STIs.”

“If you’re abroad in Europe, you can ask your doctor to give you a prescription to use in another EU country, also known as a ‘cross-border prescription,” adds Guerrini.

In cases like these, the best thing anyone can do is plan ahead. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist and explain that you will be away from home, and request a larger prescription.

If you're still unable to access more pills and have to stop taking them for an extended period of time, you may experience breakthrough bleeding due to a drop in hormone levels.

Reminder: If a traveler packs their birth control in their checked luggage and the luggage gets lost, they should call their physician and request that a new prescription is sent to their current location. To avoid this, travelers should take their birth control, contraception, and any other prescription meds in their carry-on rather than in checked luggage.

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5.When embarking on a road trip, there are a few things to take into consideration when leaving birth control pills or condoms in the car for long periods of time.

An image of birth control pack of pills and condoms

“Extreme temperatures can cause hormones to change the chemical structure. Condoms can also be affected by temp changes,” Corinne A Bazella, MD, FACOG, adds. She recommends keeping condoms in a hard case or a carry-on to prevent them from getting wrinkled or damaged.

Cindy Duke, MD, Ph.D., FACOG, suggests reading the packet to see ideal storage temperatures. “Birth control & condom packaging actually state their ideal storage conditions (and expiration dates) which is a requirement by all regulatory agencies around the world.”

Tatyannah King

Ultimately, regardless of what method of birth control you use or what kind of sexual activity you're planning on doing while you're traveling, it’s always best to consider every scenario before you leave. By considering every possibility that may happen, you’ll at least be prepared to take any necessary measures and have less to worry about while you're on vacation.

Do you have any other questions about keeping up with birth control while traveling? Let us know in the comments!