How To Keep Your Birth Control On Track When Traveling (Especially Through Time Zones)

If you use birth control pills, you've (hopefully) been informed by your doctor to always take your meds at the same time, each and every day, according to the University of Iowa Health Care. If you miss a dose or take a pill late, WebMD warns that you might run into problems such as breakthrough bleeding, cramps, headaches, and even unintended pregnancy. Missing multiple doses could also mess up certain health conditions that birth control may treat, like hormonal acne, notes Cleveland Clinic.

It might not be so hard to follow your pill schedule in your daily life. However, travel can make it harder to remember to take your birth control — or even know when's the right time to take it. But going on vacation doesn't mean you should take a vacay from your birth control too. "The contraceptive pill should ideally be taken at the same time each day — even when traveling," Julie Bowring, consultant gynecologist at London Gynaecology, explained to Healthline. This is easy if you're staying in your usual time zone or only changing zones by an hour or two. Simply set a reminder to take your oral contraceptives at the correct time, according to your home time zone (online time zone converters can help you follow your regular routine).

For longer trips and international flights, staying on track requires a little extra planning.

Be mindful of when you take your pill while traveling

When traveling long distances, you might be more concerned with flight schedules than pill schedules, but it's crucial to continue taking your birth control at regular intervals. Thankfully, this doesn't have to require waking up at odd hours or popping a pill in the middle of museum hopping. In some cases, you may be able to switch up the time you take your pill without interfering with the medication's effectiveness. According to Dr. Jonathan Schaffir, medical director of OBGYN Outpatient Clinic and a professor at The Ohio State University, it's generally safe to take birth control pills at a different time, as long as you make sure to take at least one dose within every 24-hour window. In other words, it's okay to take a pill earlier than usual but not later (even if that means taking two pills in one day to accommodate your new time zone).

Before heading to a faraway time zone, Julie Bowring told Healthline that it's a good idea to gradually change your pill schedule in advance. "You can adjust the time you take your pill a few days before traveling so when you arrive, you'll be taking your pill at a convenient time," she suggested. When in doubt, ask your doctor for advice, and stash another form of contraception in your suitcase, just in case.

Keep your birth control within easy reach

One of the easiest ways to get off track with your birth control schedule when traveling is by losing your pills or packing them in an out-of-reach bag. Be sure to keep your oral contraceptives in your purse or carry-on luggage so they're ready to go mid-flight, or whenever else you might need to take a dose.

If flying or crossing borders, consider keeping your birth control pills in their original packaging. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration notes that different places have different laws regarding medications, so including the original labels could help you avoid any mishaps at the airport.

Another pro tip: Get a refill ahead of time and have enough pills to last your entire trip. Your favorite brand or pill type might not be available at your destination, so it's best to not assume you'll be able to get a prescription filled during your trip. If you're worried, long-form birth control, such as an implant or IUD, could be a better fit for your jet-setting lifestyle. "For my patients who are flight attendants or my doctors and nurses that have crazy hours, having that method is a lot more foolproof," Dr. Christie Cobb, a gynecologist and sexual wellness doctor, revealed to Well+Good.