Daily Health

Can Birth Control Pills Expire? What You Should Know

Like most people, you probably have expired birth control pills lying around somewhere. But did you know that birth control pills can expire?

Can Birth Control Pills Expire? What You Should Know

It's important to be aware of the expiration date on your birth control pills and to understand what happens when they expire. This article explains everything you need to know about birth control pills' expiration dates!

How Birth Control Pills Work

Birth control pills are a type of contraception that prevents pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation. Birth control pills typically contain synthetic forms of the hormones progesterone and estrogen. These hormones work together to prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg each month.

Birth control pills' expiration date

The expiration date on birth control pills is typically three years from the date of manufacture. After this time, the pills may lose their potency and may not be as effective at preventing pregnancy.

If you're using birth control pills for contraception, it's important to know the expiration date and replace them before they expire.

What do the expiration dates mean?

The expiration date on birth control pills is when the manufacturer can no longer guarantee that the pills will be effective. 

Should you take expired birth control?

No, you should not take expired birth control pills. The expiration date on birth control pills is when the manufacturer can no longer guarantee that the pills will be effective. 

The truth is, expired birth control isn't as dangerous as you might think. In most cases, the active ingredients in birth control pills remain stable and effective for years after the expiration date. The biggest risk with expired birth control is that it may not be as effective as it once was. 

If you're concerned about taking expired birth control, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk. First, if your pills are more than two years past their expiration date, it's probably best to get a new prescription. 

Second, if your pills are only a few months past their expiration date, check to see if they're still good by looking for any changes in colour or texture. If the pills look fine, they're probably still good to take. Regardless, it is best to chat with your healthcare practitioner before using expired birth control pills.

What to do with expired pills

If you have expired birth control pills, it's important to dispose of them properly. You should not just throw them away in the trash, as this could pose a risk to others if they are found and consumed. Do not flush any prescription medications down the toilet. 

Check your local area to see if there is a drug takeback location where you can drop off your expired pills.  You can also check with your pharmacy to see if they will take them back and properly dispose of them.  Otherwise, documentation either with or on your medication package should explain how to properly dispose of your leftover contraceptive medication.

Whichever method you choose, ensure that expired birth control pills are well out of reach of children.

What to do if you’ve taken expired birth control pills

Expired birth control pills shouldn’t harm you. Naturally, the hormones in the pills degenerate over time, causing them to be potentially ineffective.

Other methods of birth control and their expiry dates

Other birth control methods include condoms, pills, and patches. These methods have different expiry dates, so it is important to consult a healthcare practitioner to determine which method is right for you.

Condoms

Condoms have an expiry date of five years.

Intrauterine device (IUD)

Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) have an expiry date of five years.

Contraceptive rings & patches

The expiry date of contraceptive rings and patches is three years.

Cervical caps

The expiry date of cervical caps is two years.

Spermicide

The expiry date of spermicides is two years.

Key takeaways 

One thing to keep in mind is that expiration dates are only estimates. A study published in the Center for Space Medicine and the Department of Pharmacology found that many drugs remain stable and retain their potency years after expiration. However, this study only looked at a handful of drugs, and more research needs to be done to determine if this is true for all drugs, including birth control. 

If you want to explore birth control options, or have questions about the birth control you're currently using, start you assessment with Felix today.

WRITTEN BY
Felix Team
Updated on:
December 2, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Tanja Vlahovich
Family Physician, MD, CCFP (EM)
Disclaimer

The views expressed here are those of the author and, as with the rest of the content on Health Guide, are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare practitioner.

All articles
PrEP FAQ
Read