What to Do If You Miss a Birth Control Pill
It’s completely normal to forget to do certain things now and then—even if it’s something as important as taking your daily birth control pill. Forgetting to do so can be frustrating as it can increase your odds of becoming pregnant. However, there are steps you can take to get back on track as quickly as possible and reduce your chances of conceiving.
Here are step-by-step instructions to follow if you forget to take your birth control pill.
Figure out which pill you’re using
There are two main types of birth control pills: combination pills (estrogen and progestin) and minipills (progestin-only). Your next steps depend on which type of pill you’re using.
If you’re not sure whether you’re using a combination pill or minipill, visit the website of the pill’s manufacturer to learn more about it or contact your doctor directly for confirmation.
Read the prescription label and instructions
Nearly all prescription medications, including birth control pills, come with detailed instructions about what to do if you miss a dose. Read the instructions that came with your prescription to find out what to do next. Some brands may instruct you to take the next pill as soon as you realize you missed a dose. Others may tell you to wait until your next scheduled dose.
If you do not have your prescription instructions, contact your doctor for more information or follow the recommendations detailed below.
Recommendations for a missed combination pill
If you missed only one pill, take the medication the moment you remember and take your other daily pill at the usual time. It’s okay to take both pills at the same time if you realize you missed the previous day’s dose when taking the current dose. To reduce your risk of becoming pregnant, the journal Contraception recommends using a backup birth control method such as a condom for seven days.
If you missed two pills in a row, take both as soon as you remember, as well as two pills the next day. If you missed three or more pills, take two pills every day for the next three days or start an entirely new pack of pills. To prevent pregnancy, use a backup birth control method until after your next menstrual period.
Recommendations for a missed minipill
If it’s been less than three hours since you were supposed to take your minipill, take it as soon as you remember. If it’s been more than three hours, take it as soon as you remember, even if it’s the next day. Use a backup birth control method for the next 48 hours or seven days if you are one full day late with taking the missed pill.
Potential side effects
According to Cleveland Clinic, forgetting to take your birth control may cause you to experience side effects, including spotting, pregnancy and nausea. These side effects are caused mainly by fluctuations in hormones that occur after 36 hours of not taking your pills. If your main reason for using birth control pills is to prevent pregnancy, consider using a backup birth control method until you’re fully back on track.
If you find yourself forgetting to take your birth control pill on a regular basis, consider using another birth control method that may be more convenient for you and your lifestyle. Methods you may want to consider include a vaginal ring, a birth control patch, a birth control shot or an intrauterine device—none of which require daily maintenance. If you still think the pill is your best option, consider setting an alarm on your phone or using a reminder app that helps you stay on track.
Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about your birth control pills or to learn more about how to prevent pregnancy if you miss a pill. Your doctor can give you more specific instructions on what to do based on your prescription.