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Taking the pill on vacation – gynecologist explains what applies when there is a time difference

Those who use the pill for contraception usually take it at the same time every day. When traveling, this rhythm can quickly become confused, and the time difference often becomes a problem. So what should women keep in mind so that they don’t jeopardize their contraceptive protection while traveling? A gynecologist provides the answers.

Is the time difference on vacation a problem when taking the pill?

On vacation, it depends on the type of pill. If the pill contains an estrogen and a progestogen (combined pill), taking it at the same time of day while traveling is not a problem, even if there is a time difference of twelve hours, explains gynecologist Christian Albring, president of the Professional Association of Women’s Health Physicians. A rough guideline here is: There should be no more than 36 hours between receipts.

To ensure that the time interval remains the same, according to the expert, many women change the time of taking the pill from morning to evening or vice versa during a long-distance trip. His advice: “If calculating the time of taking a pill becomes too complicated, it is better to shorten the intervals once or twice rather than lengthen them.

Pill and time shift – with which präparates is caution required?

In the case of pills containing only one progestogen ("mini-pill"), caution is advised on vacations with time differences. Albring explains: “If pills only contain the progestogen levonorgestrel, they can only tolerate a time delay of a maximum of three hours. This means that instead of 24 hours, the maximum interval between doses is 27 hours. In the case of pills containing the progestogen desogestrel or drospirenone, a single delay of a maximum of twelve hours is possible. "If the respective time interval "has been exceeded, the prevention of pregnancies is no longer given", says Albring, "and the couple should protect themselves with condoms or otherwise."

Progestogen-only pills do not reliably prevent ovulation. But they do make the mucus plug in the cervix very tight and impenetrable to sperm, Albring explains. For this to happen, however, the progestin level in the blood needs to be constant. If the progestin level drops only slightly, the mucus is no longer as firm. As a result, sperm can penetrate it. Albring: "If ovulation also takes place at the same time, it can easily lead to an unwanted pregnancy."

What to do if the interval can not be observed?

Then women should take an “intermediate pill” so as not to endanger the contraceptive protection. The Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) advises that this should be done twelve hours after the last dose on its portal familyplanning.com. When you get there, you can continue taking the pill at the usual time. So if you always take the pill at 9 a.m., you will continue to take it at 9 a.m. (local time) at your vacation destination after the intermediate pill.

In the case of a contraceptive pill containing both estrogen and progestin, women can take the last pill in the pack as an intermediate pill, if necessary, and stop taking it one day earlier and start the seventh break, says gynecologist Albring. With progestin-only pills, they take the last pill from the blister as an intermediate pill and continue with the new pack without a break. Background: While the mini-pill is taken daily without a break, the combined pill is usually taken 21 days at a time. Then there is a week’s break.

Tip: Take a replacement pill pack with you

A spare pack is always sensible, Albring thinks. Ideally, it should be stored in a different place than the pack that is currently in use, in case a piece of luggage is lost. According to the BZgA, it may not be possible to get your usual pill pack abroad. It is also important to have a reserve with you in case of possible gastrointestinal illnesses. If you vomit shortly after taking the pill, you should wait for the nausea to subside and take another pill later, advises Albring.

In the case of repeated diarrhea, it can happen that only a little of the drug is absorbed into the blood, according to the gynecologist. From the second day of diarrhea, it must be assumed that the contraception no longer works. The pill should then still be taken normally, so that there is no abortion bleeding, advises Albring. However, condoms should still be used for contraception.

Sources

  • familienplanung.de (2018): Pille und Minipille auf Reisen (Retrieved Aug. 24, 2021).

With material from dpa