When you take birth control while pregnant, this is what could happen

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 10 million women in the U.S. take the combined hormone birth control pill, which most of us call, simply, "the pill." The pill is one the most effective methods to prevent pregnancy. If you follow the instructions printed on the little folded up paper inside the pill pack perfectly, you've got less than a 0.3 percent chance of getting pregnant, according to the CDC. But not all of us are perfect pill takers, and in fact, about 9 percent of women taking the pill will end up getting pregnant

If that happens to you, and if it took you more than a few days or weeks to figure it out, will your pill usage harm your baby? In an interview with The List, award-winning OB/GYN Felice Gersh, M.D., founder and director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine, in Irvine, California, and author of PCOS SOS Fertility Fast Track, explained how oral contraceptives may affect pregnancy.

You should stop taking the pill immediately if you're pregnant. Here's why

"Of course, no prospective studies in humans have been done," Gersh notes. Instead, according to her, doctors have looked at the health of babies who were conceived when the moms were on birth control pills. "Birth control pills contain synthetic chemicals that can bind estrogen and progesterone receptors, but with different effects of those from human hormones. There was concern that exposure to birth control pills during the first trimester of pregnancy could cause a variety of birth defects," Gersh explained. One of those suspected defects is hypospadias, affecting the urethra of male babies, but reviews did not show a link between the pill and this or any other birth defect.

Women still should stop taking the pill ASAP if they find out they are pregnant, Gersh emphasized. "There can be ramifications of exposure to birth control pills which cannot be seen with one's eyes and are not yet recognized or understood," she explained. "There can be effects that impact the function of organs but not the size or shape." No studies have demonstrated these effects, "but the safest course is always to avoid exposure to all unnecessary pharmaceuticals and chemicals during pregnancy," Gersh said.