What happens if you miss a pill?

What to do when you miss a pill after sex

With everyone leading such busy lives it is not always easy to remember your contraceptive pill, particularly if your usual routine has been disrupted.  It is more than likely that you will not become pregnant from missing a pill but it is important to know what steps to take if you do forget!

When taken correctly the pill is 99% effective as a form of birth control; so what do you need to do if you miss a pill?  It will very much depend on whether you are taking the combined pill or the progesterone only pill as well as how many pills you have missed.  In addition, it may be important at what point in the cycle the pill was missed

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The combined pill

  • One pill missed - take the missed pill as soon as possible, even if it means you have to take two pills in one day.  Continue to take your pill as normal and extra contraception (eg. condoms) will not be necessary.

Continue as normal to take the seven day pill-free break or dummy pills

There is no 2 or 7 day birth control needed

  • Two pills missed - take the last pill that was missed immediately, even if you are taking two pills in one day but leave any pills missed previously.  If you missed the pills early in the cycle (first seven days) and you had unprotected sex it would be advisable to consider using emergency contraception

Use backup contraception until you have been taking your active pills (those containing hormones, not dummy pills) for seven days.  If you have missed the pills in the third week of the cycle, finish the pack then immediately start a new pack.  Do not have a seven day break or take dummy pills

 

The progesterone only pill (mini pill)

In the case of the mini pill you have less of a ‘window’ in terms of losing the efficiency of the pill if it is missed and not taken within the window recommended for whatever brand is being used

  • One missed pill - take one pill immediately and continue to take your pills as normal.  Do not take the ‘dummy’ or inactive pills but begin a new pack immediately.

If you have had unprotected sex in the last 5 days it may be necessary to consider emergency contraception.  You must either abstain or use backup birth control until you have taken the pills for 2 consecutive days

  • Two missed pills - your next pill should be taken as soon as possible and then the normal schedule should be followed.  Again, if you have had unprotected sex within the last five days it would be advisable to use emergency contraception.

Until two pills have been taken it is advisable to abstain or use backup contraception

 

Sources

  1. What should I do if I miss a pill (combines pill) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/miss-combined-pill/
  2. What to do if you missed one or more of your birth control pills https://www.healthline.com/health/birth-control/missed-birth-control-pill#if-you-missed-1-inactive-pills
  3. Missed Contraceptive Pills https://patient.info/doctor/missed-contraceptive-pills

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