What to do if you miss a birth control pill
Sometimes things happen, and you forget to take or switch your birth control method on schedule, which causes you to miss a dose or two. If you’re wondering what to do if you forget to take your birth control, don’t worry — we have you covered. In this article, we’ll cover your options, the side effects of missing doses, and how the chances of pregnancy may change.
What should I do when I miss a pill (or two)?
If you miss one pill, take it as soon as you remember, even if it’s the next day. Taking 2 pills in the same day or at the same time will mean for a short period of time you will have higher hormones in your body — this is okay. Having higher levels of hormones in your system from your birth control may cause nausea.
Usually, missing only 1 pill may not change how protected you are against pregnancy. If you are sexually active and have missed 1 or more pills, you may want to consider using barrier methods (like condoms) to help prevent pregnancy.
If you miss two pills, take 2 pills the day you remember and 2 pills the next day to get back on track. Don’t take more than 2 pills in one day to catch up faster. Protection against pregnancy decreases even more if:
- You miss 2 or more pills
- You forget to re-insert your vaginal ring or re-apply a birth control patch at the proper timing
If this happens, consider using another form of protection during sex, and speak with your primary care provider about what to do if you miss any more than 2 days of your hormonal birth control method. You may have to start a new pack (if you’re taking birth control pills) to reduce the chances of pregnancy. This may vary depending on the type of pill you take.
What are the different types of birth control?
There are many different forms of hormonal birth control, including various forms of pills, the hormonal ring, and the patch. In this article, we’re mainly focusing on different forms of birth control pills.
The combination pill contains estrogen and progestin. Packs of combination pills usually have 21-24 days of hormone pills followed by placebo pills — these are pills without any hormones).
The minipill only contains progestin and is even more time-sensitive, meaning that it needs to be taken at the same time daily. For this type of pill, taking it even hours later than you normally do can impact its efficacy.
Depending on exactly how you are taking your birth control pills, you may not get a period every single month. If you are concerned about pregnancy and having sex regularly, it may be a good idea to take a pregnancy test each month.
Side effects of missing birth control pills
Breakthrough bleeding (also known as spotting) and pregnancy are the most common side effects of missing a birth control pill. Hormones within the pill usually wear off in about 36 hours without continued use. When hormone levels drop off, spotting can occur. This spotting may also be accompanied by period-like cramps and feeling nauseated.
Your chances of getting pregnant may change depending on when you forget a pill and how many pills you miss in a row. Birth control may no longer offer you any protection against pregnancy with 3 (or more) missed pills.
Missing a placebo pill toward the end of a pill packet shouldn’t change your chances of getting pregnant given that during this time you should be on your period, or depending on how you are instructed to take your birth control pills, you may be skipping this week entirely and starting a new pack.
Can I get pregnant if I miss one birth control pill? 2? More?
If you forget to take any pills, the chance of pregnancy increases. As extra pregnancy prevention, you may also want to use another form of birth control — such as barrier methods like condoms — until you get your next period and start a new pack of pills. Your chances of getting pregnant will vary depending on the type of birth control method you were using and the number of days you are off your recommended schedule.
For example, if you miss pills that only have inactive ingredients (during the last week of some birth control packets), the chances of pregnancy won’t increase. However, not all types of birth control have placebo pills. When you forget to take three or more pills, use a backup method of birth control until you start your next pill packet and have your period.
What happens if I start a new pack of birth control late?
Beginning a pack of birth control late might make the pill less effective at preventing pregnancy. Using a backup method during this time may be helpful. You can start a packet of birth control at any point in your cycle and any day of the week, but it takes some time for the chances of pregnancy to reduce. It may take up to seven days, depending on the birth control. During this time, make sure to have a backup method of birth control prepared.
Tips for remembering your birth control
Life can get busy, making it easier for the little things to slip your mind. To minimize the likelihood of that something being forgetting to take a birth control pill, you can:
- Set a reminder on your phone
- Pair the time you take your pill with something already set in your routine (like taking it during a meal)
- Use a pill organizer
- Keep your pills in a place you frequently look, like on the bathroom sink
- Keep your pill packet in your purse if you’re likely to be out of the house when you take your pills
- If you’re traveling, and are within a different timezone, make sure to take your birth control at the usual time in your home timezone