Missing a birth control pill can be stressful, but it’s not uncommon. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that around 15% of women who use oral contraceptives miss at least one pill per cycle, and 16% miss at least two pills.
Anju T Nayar, M.D., and our team here at Nova Womens Health know it’s stressful to miss a pill. If you’re unsure what type of pill you take or how to proceed after missing one, don’t hesitate to call our North Reading, Massachusetts, office.
In the meantime, if you’ve missed a pill, you can take some general steps to reduce your pregnancy risk.
Check the instructions for your specific brand of birth control pills. Different pills have different instructions for missed doses, so it’s important to know what type of birth control pill you take: the combination or the mini pill. Most women take the combination pill 一 which contains both estrogen and progestin hormones 一 but some opt for the mini pill, which only contains progestin.
If you miss taking a mini pill, it’s important to take action to prevent unintended pregnancy. If you’re more than three hours late in taking your pill or miss any number of pills, you’ll need to use a backup form of birth control for the next two days. You must use backup protection for seven days if you’ve missed it by a full day.
Mini pills drop from a 99% effective rate to a 91% effective rate if you miss a pill or are late with a pill.
If you missed taking your mini pill three or more hours ago, take it as soon as possible. If you missed only one day’s pill, take it immediately, and then take today’s pill on schedule if you haven’t already. It’s okay to take two pills in one day. Resume your normal schedule for the rest of the month.
However, if you forget to take two or more pills in a row, use a backup form of birth control. Depending on how many pills you missed, you may start your period. Call us if you’re unsure how long to use backup protection or how many pills to take.
If you miss one or more pills containing hormones, here’s what you should do:
Take the missed pill as soon as possible, and continue taking the rest of your pills as usual. If you missed a pill during the first week of a new pack, use another form of birth control for the next seven days.
Take the most recently missed pill immediately and discard the others. Continue taking the rest of your pills as usual, even if it means taking two pills in one day. Use condoms or another form of birth control until you take your pill for seven days consecutively.
Skip the placebo pills and take one of the remaining hormone pills each day. Start a new pack the day after finishing the remaining pills. If you can’t start a new pack immediately, use a different form of birth control, and continue to do so until you’ve taken your pill every day for seven days.
Missing birth control pills can cause light bleeding, cramping, nausea, and headaches or migraines. Missing multiple pills in a row increases the risk of accidentally getting pregnant. Use a backup method of contraception, such as condoms, while getting back on track.
Remember that missing a pill does not necessarily mean you will become pregnant. However, it’s important to take action to reduce your risk of pregnancy and to use backup contraception until you have taken your pills correctly for at least seven days.
If your schedule prevents you from taking your pills easily at the same time every day, it may be time to consider other birth control options that don’t require daily action. For example, an intrauterine device (IUD) is a set-it-and-forget-it type of birth control.
Here at Nova Womens Health, Dr. Nayar helps you find the right birth control. She considers your overall health, family planning goals, and lifestyle before recommending your options.
If you’d like to explore your birth control options, schedule a contraception counseling session in our North Reading, Massachusetts, office by calling 978-664-5979. You can also use our online form to book online.