Hi Dr. Kate,
If birth control pills are expired, or about to expire, but they are still in the original sealed, unopened package without punctures and have been stored in a cool, dry area away from heat and humidity, are they still safe to use and still effective at preventing pregnancy if taken correctly? Is an expired but unopened/sealed condom package stored in a cool, dry area away from heat and humidity still safe, usable and effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly? These types of expiration dates on BC and condom packages confuse me, for example: the expiration info on a package of birth control pills/sealed condom shows the following: Exp. 12/10 (Meaning it expires December 2010). Exactly WHEN does it expire? Does it expire on December 1st, 2010, or on December 31st, 2010?
Thank you so much!
The good news is that you have the entire month of the expiration date to use the product (pills or condoms). In your example, the pills/condoms expire on December 31st.
The bad news is that these products really shouldn't be used after this date. Even if you've treated them with TLC (they haven't been baked in high heat or had their packaging damaged), the manufacturer can't guarantee effectiveness after this date. Now, if you're about to have sex, and the only thing you have on hand is an expired condom, I would still use it - an expired condom is better than no condom at all. There's no way to estimate how much less effective the pills or condoms would be after the use-by date, though. So it's best to keep track of your birth control stash, and make sure you're prepared for sex with the freshest contraception you can.
Best of health,
Photo credit: Chazz Layne