Monday, February 01, 2010

Expiration Dates

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!


Dear J,

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,
Dr. Kate

Photo credit: Chazz Layne


apeironer said...

Sorry but your answer is incorrect. at least about the birth control. I have been a pharmacy tech for 3 years now and if the expiration date is printed on the actual birth control package by the manufacturer that is an expiration date for the pharmacy. The actual medication is good for a year after that. It is done that why to ensure that people never get expired product and those packages are collected and sold to another company which resells them. If you still have the sticker from the pharmacy on the package it should indicate that the pills are good for 1 year after dispensed.

Dr. Kate said...

Apeironer, that's great to know. But if someone doesn't have a pharmacy sticker on the package with another expiration date, I still think it's safest to go by the date on the package.