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Birth Control Travel Tips

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Updated July 13, 2014

Traveling? Don't forget to plan ahead when it comes to your birth control. In addition to the travel tips presented below, you should also consider packing emergency contraception in case your birth control malfunctions or if you have unprotected sex while you are traveling. Remember, the morning-after pill may not be easily accessible in certain areas. Also, store all prescribed drugs (such as birth control pills or your diaphragm) in their original container with readable labels.

1. Traveling With the Pill, Patch or Ring?

Birth Control Travel Tips
Photo © 2014 Dawn Stacey

If you use the pill, Ortho Evra Patch, or NuvaRing, it is a wise idea to bring your next month's supply -- just in case you run out while traveling or used them incorrectly (and need to start a new pack). In some areas, it may be hard to purchase these prescription methods. Plan ahead and pack that extra supply. 

If your period is likely to occur during your traveling dates, you may wish to skip it by using one of these hormonal methods. You may need to plan ahead of time though in order to do this effectively (incase you need to buy additional packs).

Another thing to keep in mind if you are use hormonal birth control and are traveling -- there are certain medications that can lower the effectiveness of these methods. It is a good idea to know what these are ahead of time incase you get sick during your trip and are prescribed one of these medications. Also, if you are prone to a "traveler's tummy," keep in mind that excessive vomiting as well as the medication Aprepitant (used for vomiting or nausea) can lower the effectiveness of the pill.

2. Traveling and Underwater Sex

Sex Myths
Photo Ray Kachatorian/Getty Images

Some people may tend to get a little "adventurous" while vacationing in romantic places. Having underwater sex in some exotic places can require planning ahead of time, since contraceptives that contain spermicide are not suitable for sex in the ocean, pool, hot tub or bathtub.

3. Bring Condoms

bring_condoms.jpg
Photo © 2014 Dawn Stacey

Make sure to bring condoms (even if you use another birth control method). Condoms are the only birth control method that protect against STDs - just in case you meet that "perfect" person. Condoms can also protect you (and potentially your partner) from urinary and vaginal infections that may be more likely to occur since a traveling environment is often less hygienic than your normal living conditions. 

Condoms are usually available almost everywhere, but keep in mind that selection and quality may be limited. This may especially be the case if you prefer specific condom types/brands. So, if you use polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms (maybe due to latex allergies) or specialized condoms, like extra large ones, pack an extra box (or two or three!) in your suitcase. 

4. Remember to Take the Pill

Photo Courtesy of P. Eaton

Surveys show that about 43% of pill users in their 20s say taking the pill puts a damper on their vacation. One in five pill users say that they have missed pills while traveling. And one-quarter of these women report that this has negatively impacted their trip. Other studies have shown that nearly all women who used the pill while traveling with a partner admit that contraception was always on their mind. 

Also: 4% of pill users reported that they were unable to take their pill due to their baggage being lost.

In order for the pill to work most effectively, you need to take it at the same time each day. This is VERY important to keep in mind if you are traveling to a place that has a different time zone than where you live.

5. If You Use Depo-Provera

Using Depo Provera
Photo Reprinted With Permission from E. Scott
When planning your vacation dates, remember that your Depo Provera injections need to be given every 12 weeks. Typically, you will be protected as long as you get a Depo shot four times a year (every 11-13 weeks). If you will be away when your shot is due, it's okay to get the shot a week early or up to a week after when your next shot is due. Some studies say you could wait up to four weeks, but Pfizer, manufacturer of Depo Provera, advises not to push the limit past one week, since women have gotten pregnant by doing so. Pfizer suggests using a back-up method if you miss a shot or if more than 13 weeks have passed since your last injection.

6. Romantic Getaways or New Sexual Encounters

Talk About Birth Control
Photo Courtesy of B. Levy

BEFORE you travel with your new partner, it is important to discuss birth control preferences. Discuss STDs and sexual histories. Since some birth control methods (like hormonal contraception) require doctor's visits and could take some time before they are effective, you will need to make decisions about contraception use well in advance of your intended traveling dates.

If you're with a new partner you just met, always discuss contraception before having sex. If caught in the heat of the moment, you may be pressured into something that you may regret later. Unless you want a baby as a souvenir from this romantic voyage, discuss birth control in advance.

7. Traveling and Your Period

Sex During Period
Photo Nancy R. Cohen/Getty Images
Traveling can cause menstrual cycle mayhem. Different time zones, exhaustion, and emotional stress can trigger irregular bleeding. Be prepared by packing personal hygiene products (so you have them easily accessible). On the flip side, excessive exercise (from sight-seeing, swimming, etc.) and stress also can cause missed periods. This could throw off fertility patterns if you are relying on natural family planning.

8. Hormonal Birth Control and Long Trips

traveling.jpg
Photo Ilya Terentyev/Vetta/Getty Images

Long-distance travel has been linked to potentially fatal deep vein thromboses (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE). If you use combination hormonal contraception, you may be at higher risk for developing blood clots, so you may need to take added precautions if your travel plans include sitting still for a long time. These risk factors can be easily avoided by making sure you stretch your legs from time to time and by staying hydrated (be sure to drink water - not just coffee or soda).

9. Storing Your Birth Control

Storing Birth Control
Photo © 2013 Dawn Stacey
Certain contraceptives, like condoms, are susceptible to heat, so store condoms in a cool and dry place while traveling. They should not be exposed to heat, light, air, or sunlight for long periods of time. This means that a condom should not be stored in a glove compartment or carried in a wallet or back pocket (unless planning on using that day). Make sure to read the package inserts of your chosen method to determine the temperature that they need to be stored at.

10. If You Use Barrier Birth Control

Barrier Birth Control
Photo © 2014 Dawn Stacey

Since many spermicidal products may not be available in other countries, if you rely upon these barrier methods for contraception, make sure to bring enough spermicidal creams, film, foams, jellies, and/or suppositories. The same goes if you use the the sponge. It is better to bring more than you may need rather than not being able to find them during your travels.

Diaphragm users - this birth control travel tip applies you as well! Make sure you pack enough spermicide to use with your diaphragm while you are away. Having your diaphragm with you won't make a difference if you can't find a place to purchase the spermicide you need to use with it!

 

Sources:

How Depo-Provera Works: Dose timing. Pfizer, Inc. 2004.

Cedars Sinai Medical Centre. "Physiotherapists Offer Tips On Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis." Virtual Blood Center, April 2007.

Mols, M. "43% of women find taking the pill a burden while on vacation." Medical News Today, July 10, 2005.

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