What do I do if I forget to take the pill?

Do not worry, there are steps you can take


The contraceptive pill, known as 'the pill', is one of the most popular contraception forms in the UK. It contains the hormones oestrogen and progesterone to prevent pregnancy. You'll usually take it once a day for three weeks, and then there is a 7-day break when you have your period. The pill is 99% effective when taken correctly.

If you forget to take the pill, this does not necessarily mean that you're at risk of becoming pregnant. It all depends on the type of pill you are taking, where you are in your menstrual cycle and how long it's been since you were supposed to take your last pill.

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What are the different types of the pill?

There are two different contraceptive pill types: the combined pill and the progesterone-only pill, which is often referred to as the 'mini-pill'. The combined pill contains both oestrogen and progesterone. If you have continued side effects or health-related risk factors that means that the oestrogen is not suitable for you, you may be prescribed the mini pill instead. This contains fewer hormones, and you take it every day of the month instead of having a break between packs.


What do I do if I forget to take the combined pill?

If you've only missed one pill, then do not worry, you are not at risk of getting pregnant. Simply take the pill you've missed right away and carry on with the rest of your pack as usual, even if this does mean you are taking two pills at once. When you reach the end of your pack, take the seven-day break as normal and start your next pack on time. There is no need to use extra contraception.

If you have missed two pills or more, then you may not be protected against pregnancy and will need to use additional contraception for the next seven days. Take the last pill that you missed right away and continue with the rest of your pack, even if this does mean taking two pills at once. Leave any additional pills that you have missed.

When you take your missed pill, you'll also need to check how many pills you have left until the end of the pack. If there are seven or more, then take them as scheduled and leave the usual seven days before beginning a new pack. If you have less than seven pills left, when you reach the end of the pack you will need to start your next one the day after, skipping the seven-day break.

If you missed two or more pills in the first week of your cycle then you might need emergency contraception. Visit your GP or seek advice from a pharmacist who will assess the situation and issue you with it if needed. If you are ever unsure about what you should do after missing your pill, then seek advice from a doctor. Dr Felix is just a message away and will be able to give you advice based on your situation.


What do I do if I forget to take the progesterone-only pill?

The time period that you need to follow when taking the progesterone pill is much tighter. There are two different varieties: the three-hour progesterone pill which needs to be taken within three hours of your scheduled time each day, and the twelve-hour pill which works in the same manner but you have a window of twelve hours to take it and still be protected.


The three-hour pill

If it's been less than three hours since you should have taken the pill, then you will still be protected against pregnancy. For example, if you were due to take it at 11 am and it is now 1 pm, you are still within the three-hour window. Take your pill right away and continue with your pack like normal.

If the three-hour window has passed then you are no longer protected against pregnancy. You should take your missed pill as soon as possible and use additional contraception for the next two days. Continue with the rest of your pack as usual, sticking with your normal time. If you have had unprotected sex before you realise that you've missed your pill then seek advice from a doctor as you might need emergency contraception.


The twelve-hour pill

The same rules apply for the twelve-hour progesterone-only pill but with a different time frame. If you realise that you've missed your pill and it's been less than twelve hours then take it right away and continue with the rest of the pack. Don't worry if this causes you to take two pills in one day, this is not harmful.

If it's been more than twelve hours, you'll need to use an additional contraception method, like condoms, for the next two days and see a doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible if you've had unprotected sex during this time. Keep taking the rest of your pack as scheduled.


Additional advice

Always follow the guidance that's included with your pack. Different types and brands may have their own steps to follow about what you should do if you forget to take your pill. If you feel uncertain about what you should do then talk to a doctor or pharmacist right away. It's important to do this as soon as possible. In the event that you do need emergency contraception, the effectiveness of it depends on how soon you take it.

Setting a recurring alarm on your phone or a calendar alert may help you to remember to take your pill. If you take it in the morning then keeping your pack in your handbag or purse might be practical to ensure you have access to it wherever you are. Making sure you take it at a set time each day will help determine your next steps if you forget to take one.

Forgetting to take the pill is easily done, so don't panic if it happens to you. Make sure you follow advice for your specific pill type and if you are worried that you may be at risk of becoming pregnant then you can seek advice with Dr Felix right away.



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