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Here's how to protect your birth control from the extreme summer heat so it stays effective

Kate Hull   

Here's how to protect your birth control from the extreme summer heat so it stays effective
  • Extreme heat can make some forms of contraception less effective.
  • Damage isn't always visible but can include changed smell, hardness, and color of medication.

Extreme heat could zap the effectiveness of your birth control, including condoms, emergency contraception such as Plan B, and pregnancy tests, The 19th reported.

Over 47 million women from age 15 to 49 use contraception in the United States, according to the CDC, and as heat waves scorch America, multiple types of contraception are at risk of losing their effectiveness.

Heat can alter oral contraceptive's molecular structure and shorten the shelf life of condoms, according to Planned Parenthood.

The Lilith Fund, a Texas-based organization that provides financial and emotional assistance to people seeking abortions and reproductive healthcare, told The 19th that heat damaged $3,500 worth of pregnancy tests, thermometers, and condoms due to a temporary air-conditioning outage at a storage facility in San Antonio last month.

Here's how you should store your medication, and the heat-damage signs to watch out for.

Birth-control pills

According to a blog post from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, some medications list an ideal storage-temperature range on their labels — the most common being between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit — but many medications are still usable if they get a bit hotter or cooler than the recommended range. Your best bet is to check your medication's label for storage information or talk to a pharmacist about recommended storage conditions.

The organization also recommends sealing medication in airtight containers and not storing medications in bathroom or kitchen cabinets — these spaces typically have a lot of moisture.

Planned Parenthood said that signs of medication damage may include changes in color, smell, hardness, or smoothness, but that damage isn't always visible.


Condoms should also ideally be stored in a cool, dry environment in temperatures below 104 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the World Health Organization. Higher temperatures can shorten the shelf life of condoms and make them less likely to prevent pregnancy.

If a condom's wrapper is broken, the condom is torn, or it feels dry, stiff, or sticky, Planned Parenthood recommends you throw it away.

Emergency contraception

One form of emergency contraception, most notably known under the brand name Plan B, should be kept at temperatures between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the FDA. Heat can cause the pills to break down and be less effective at preventing pregnancy.

Like birth control, you can't always tell when emergency-contraception pills are damaged, but Planned Parenthood recommends you dispose of medication that has changed in color, smell, hardness, or smoothness.

Pregnancy tests

Pregnancy tests should ideally be stored at normal room temperature — between 36 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit — according to the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

A damaged test can lead to false results. "Heat or moisture can cause damage to the test window on a pregnancy test and this can also result in inaccurate results," Preethi Daniel, the medical director at the integrated-healthcare provider London Doctors Clinic, told Cosmopolitan.

When in doubt, get a new pregnancy test from the pharmacy, Preethi said.

Be particularly careful when traveling with birth control

Traveling can also put medication at greater risk of heat exposure, since cars and airplanes are not always temperature controlled. As a result, Planned Parenthood recommends keeping contraception on your person and out of checked baggage during your flight, where it may be exposed to extreme temperatures.

Experts also recommend keeping your contraception out of the car, which can reach extreme temperatures during heat waves. Just 10 minutes in the sun during an 85-degree day can heat the inside of your car to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, Insider reported previously.

"One thing we've always stressed is do not keep kits in your car, especially in Texas heat," Graci D'Amore, who coordinates the distribution of reproductive-health kits for the Texas-based reproductive-rights organization Jane's Due Process, told The 19th.

Don't forget to check mailed prescriptions for damage

If you receive your medications via mail, they could be at greater risk of excessive-heat exposure. Even if mail trucks are properly air-conditioned, mail that sits in your mailbox or on your doorstep could get hot and the contraceptives could lose their effectiveness, according to The 19th.

As a result, it's important that you get your mail indoors as soon as possible or pick up medication at a pharmacy instead.