First things first, take a deep breath and don’t panic. We’ve got you covered! Sometimes it is hard to keep track of your pill when you're piled with work, or it may simply slip your mind. This is normal, and you can (mostly) always do something to fix it. However, the course of action depends on the pill you are using.
Studies suggest that only 9 out of 100 women get pregnant during their first year of taking the pill, the most common cause of unwanted pregnancy being skipping their doses. Our detailed guide will help you identify what to do after missing a dose of your pill.
For combination pills
As the name suggests, combination pills combine two hormones - oestrogen and progestin. The majority of people who take oral contraception are prescribed these tablets. When using combination medications, 'missing a pill' refers to skipping the recommended time by at least 24 hours. In case you have missed your pill(s), here is what you should do:
Missed one pill
- Take the pill as soon as you remember.
- Take the next dosage at the scheduled time even if it means popping two pills on the same day.
- Don’t panic; you typically don’t need emergency contraception in this situation.
Missed two pills in a row in the first or second week of your kit
- Take the birth control pill that you missed ASAP, even if it means taking two in a day.
- Continue taking one pill daily until you complete the existing kit.
- Additionally, use an alternative method of contraception, like an external condom, until you have been on the pill for seven days after missing two in a row.
Missed two pills in a row in the third week or subsequent week of your kit
- Take the recent dose you’d skipped as soon as you remember.
- Continue taking one pill a day till you finish the kit.
- When you are done with the current kit, discard the inactive tablets and begin the next pack right away. It is quite unlikely that you'll get your period this month.
- However, if you are using an extended cycle pack of tablets, continue taking your pills instead of tossing the pack away.
- Use a backup contraceptive until you have taken active tablets for at least 7 days.
Missed three (or more) pills in the initial three weeks
- Start a new pack of birth control pills on the day you have realised you’ve missed the doses and discard the rest of the pills from your old kit.
- Continue if you are taking a pill pack for an extended cycle.
- Until you've taken active tablets for seven days, use a backup method of contraception to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.
You could become pregnant if you have sex during the first seven days after restarting your tablets. For those seven days, you must either refrain from having intercourse or use backup birth control (condoms, for example). You might need to use emergency contraception if you had unprotected sex during the last five days and did so after being off the pill for seven days in a row.
If you are still unsure about what to do next or are scared about missing a pill, schedule an appointment with our friendly online gynaecologists to clear any doubts.
For progestin-only pills
Progestin-only pills contain only progestin and no oestrogen. Since these pills contain less progestin than combination pills, missing one dose increases the risk of pregnancy. This is why you should use alternative forms of contraception for at least two days if you miss only one progestin-only tablet. When it comes to the timeline of 'missing a pill' for progestin-only pills, it means missing the scheduled time by at least three hours.
Last but not least, if you are still unsure about what to do about the tablets you missed, continue taking one active pill each day and do not skip backup protection during sex.
Frequently asked questions
- Can I skip birth control for a day?
It is advisable not to skip birth control and be punctual with the doses. However, if you are on combination pills and missed one dose, you can relax. On the other hand, the risk of pregnancy is higher if you’re using progesterone-only pills.
- What happens if I skip birth control?
The 24 to 48-hour safe window is the standard guideline for using combination pills. Before that, you can catch up on missed doses, but after that window has passed, you are no longer protected against unwanted pregnancy.
There is a greater chance of pregnancy when you’ve missed several birth control pills and have unprotected sex, particularly in the latter half of your current pack or at the start of a new one. Therefore, it's a good idea to use emergency contraception or consult a doctor in this situation.
- Does missing a pill affect my menstrual cycle?
The process of playing catch-up contraception may impact your cycle, so don't be shocked if your period arrives early, late, or not at all. However, you should take a pregnancy test at home if you miss your periods to make sure you are not pregnant.
Plus, you can always check out Rocket Health if you have questions about how many tablets you skipped or want to get started with contraceptives. You will be assisted in choosing the appropriate course of action by a member of our medical team.