Missed a pill? Here’s what to do

What to do if you miss a pill

Forgetting to take the pill is a common occurrence that many women have experienced. Before you start to panic, take a moment to review the situation and read over this quick guide so you can figure out what you should do. This will vary depending on how many pills you’ve missed, the type of pill you’re taking and where you are in your cycle. 

 

One missed pill 

If you’re on the combined pill, missing one is nothing to worry about. You’re still protected against pregnancy and don’t need to take any action. Simply take the pill you missed alongside the one you are due to take and continue as normal. 

If you miss a progesterone-only pill, take the one you missed as soon as possible and use an additional form of contraception such as condoms, for the next 48 hours as you won’t be protected against pregnancy during this time. 

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Two or more missed pills 

If you’ve missed more than one pill, what action you need to take will depend on where you are in your cycle but it’s safe to assume that you are no longer protected against pregnancy. 

 

Days 1-7 

If you miss two or more pills in the first 7 days of your pack you will need to take emergency contraception if you’ve had sexual intercourse in the past 7 days. The morning after pill is more effective the sooner you take it, so go to your local pharmacy or sexual health clinic as soon as you can. In addition to this, take the last missed pill alongside the one you’re scheduled to take that day, discarding the previous ones. Never take more than two pills in one day. 

It’s also important to note that you won’t be protected against pregnancy for the next 7 days. This means you’ll need to use condoms, or another non-hormonal alternative, during this time period. 

 

Days 7-14

If you’ve taken your pills correctly for the first 7 days and miss more than one in your second week, you don’t need emergency contraception. Take the most recent missed pill alongside the one you are due to take and keep taking the rest as usual. You will need to use additional contraception for the next 7 days to ensure you are protected against pregnancy. 
 

Days 14-21

If you miss two or more pills during the last 7 days of your pack, then you should skip the usual 7 day break and start the next pack right away. Take your scheduled pill and the most recent missed one, and keep taking the rest of the pack. When you reach the end, start next month’s pack the following day and use condoms for the next 7 days. 

 

Missing a progesterone-only pill

The rules are different if you are on the progesterone-only pill (mini pill) as they work in a slightly different way to the combined pill. The mini pill must be taken within the 3 or 12 hour time frame or it won’t be effective. This means if you take your pill after this, it’s considered a missed pill and you are at risk of pregnancy. 

If this happens, take your missed pill as soon as you remember and keep taking the rest as scheduled. Extra contraception will be needed for the next 48 hours and if you had sex before doing this you will need to seek emergency contraception. 

 

Emergency contraception 

Figuring out what you should do if you’ve missed a pill or two isn’t always straightforward and if you’re worried then always seek advice from a pharmacist, sexual health clinic or a GP. They will ask you a series of questions and determine whether or not you need the morning after pill. Even if you don’t, it’s always better to ask just in case. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. 

If you’re seeking the morning after pill, the best thing to do is go straight to a pharmacy. You don’t need to see a doctor for a prescription. It’s important to take it as soon as possible, and waiting for an appointment can slow this down. The morning after pill is freely available from all pharmacies, you just need to have a short consultation before being issued it.

 

Sources

NHS> The Combined Pill: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/combined-contraceptive-pill/ 

NHS> The Progesterone Only Pill: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/the-pill-progestogen-only/

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