Birth Control Travel Tips

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

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. Also, Nuvaring needs to be refrigerated.

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 (in case you need to buy additional packs).

Another thing to keep in mind if you are using 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 in case 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 Emend (aprepitant), which is used for vomiting or nausea, can lower the effectiveness of the pill.

2

Bring Condoms

Condoms on suitcase

2014 Dawn Stacey

Make sure to bring condoms (even if you use another birth control method). Condoms are the best protection against STDs—just in case you meet that "perfect" person.

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. 

Condoms should not be exposed to extreme temperatures.

3

Remember to Take the Pill

Birth control pill pack

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You may have developed good habits in taking your pill when at home, but it can become a challenge when you are on vacation and your routine is disrupted. While combination birth control pills need to be taken once daily and are less strict about exact timing, progestin-only pills should be taken within the same three-hour period each day for the best effectiveness. You may need to do some calculating for new time zones and accounting for the hours lost or gained in flight. You want to avoid missed pills while traveling.

Some pill users are unable to take their pill due to their baggage being lost. Be sure to bring essential medications in your carry on.

4

If You Use Depo-Provera

Teenager receiving contraceptive injection.

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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. 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.

5

Romantic Getaways or New Sexual Encounters

Couple texting with cell phone, using laptops in living room

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Before you travel with a 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.

6

Traveling and Your Period

Sex During Period

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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.

Menstrual cups, such as ZIGGY and INTIMIMINA, are an option for menses during a beach vacation.

7

Hormonal Birth Control and Long Trips

Traveling on a plane

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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. Make sure you stretch your legs from time to time and stay hydrated. Wearing compression stockings can also help prevent DVT.

8

Storing Your Birth Control

Storing birth control

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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.

9

If You Use Barrier Birth Control

Barrier Birth Control

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 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. If you run out of spermicide and cannot replace it, it is better to use a diaphragm alone than no contraception at all.

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Article Sources
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  2. MedlinePlus. Aprepitant. Updated July 14, 2018.

  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Barrier methods of birth control. Updated March, 2018.

  4. Planned Parenthood. How to use birth control pills.

  5. Planned Parenthood. How to use the birth control shot.

  6. Pfizer. Depo-Provera CI (medroxyprogesterone acetate) injectable suspension information for patients. Updated September, 2016.

  7. Piparva KG, Buch JG. Deep vein thrombosis in a woman taking oral combined contraceptive pills. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2011;2(3):185-6. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.83284

  8. Lifestyles. Proper condom storage.