What to do if you miss a birth control pill so that you don't get pregnant
- If you accidentally skip a dose, take it as soon as you remember.
- If you don't realize until it's time for your next dose, take both pills at once.
- As long as you take it within 24 hours of missing a pill, it's unlikely you'll get pregnant.
If you take oral contraception to prevent pregnancy, you're not alone — the pill is one of the most common methods of birth control. And no wonder: The pill is a simple and effective method of
But mistakes happen, and often, people don't use the pill perfectly, dropping its average effectiveness at preventing pregnancy to 93% to 97%. It's easy to miss a daily dose or neglect to start a new month's birth control on time.
"All of us have missed a pill or two...we are only human! But let's be clear, birth control is only as effective as you are compliant," says Dr. Sherry Ross, a California-based OB-GYN and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period.
Luckily, if you miss a dose of your daily birth control pill, it's probably not a big deal. Here's what you need to know about what happens if you forget to take your birth control pill — and most importantly, what actions you should take.
If you miss a dose, you can double dose the next day
If you accidentally skip a dose of your birth control pill, take it as soon as you remember, advises Ross. If you don't realize until it's time for your next dose, take both pills at the same time, she says.
"If you skip one pill and double up the next day you probably won't notice any changes in your menstrual cycle," Ross says. Missing just one pill won't cause you to begin ovulating, she says. You might, however, experience some irregular spotting with one missed dose.
"Irregular spotting or bleeding tends to be more common if you miss more than two pills in a row," Ross says.
Some hormonal birth controls come with four to seven days of inactive pills. These pills do not have hormones in them — they're included in the package to help you keep up the habit of taking the pill while you have your period. If you miss one of these pills, just throw it away and take the next pill as scheduled.
What to do if you've had sex and then missed a dose
If you had sex and miss just one pill later that same day, it's unlikely you'll get pregnant as long as you take it within 24 hours.
Moreover, you likely don't need to take emergency contraception, like Plan B. The two exceptions are if you're taking progesterone-only pills or if you missed a combination pill early in your cycle or the last week of the previous cycle.
What to do if you've missed a dose and then had sex
If you plan on having sex after a missed dose, you should be aware of whether you're taking a combination pill, that contains both estrogen and progesterone, or a progesterone-only pill.
If you use a combination birth control pill, it works to prevent pregnancy in two ways: first by halting ovulation and second by thickening your uterine wall, which makes it difficult for sperm to get through to an egg. Therefore, thanks to this double-up approach, there's no need to use a backup birth control method after skipping a dose, according to the CDC.
Whereas, if you're taking a progesterone-only birth control pill, which does not suppress ovulation as much as the combo pill, the CDC recommends using backup birth control, like a condom, until you have taken the pill as scheduled for two days.
When in doubt about what to do, reach out to your healthcare provider.
What to do if you miss more than one dose
If you miss two pills in a row, "the chance of you getting pregnant is still very unlikely but you will need to use a back-up method, such as a condom, during that month if you are having sexual intercourse," Ross says.
If you miss three or more pills, reach out to your healthcare provider for the next steps, says Ross.
If you find that you frequently miss pills, consider opting for an alternative contraception option, like an IUD or injection. "Women have many choices when choosing birth control methods," she says.
If you accidentally skip a dose of the birth control pill, take it as soon as you remember. If you don't realize until it's time for your next dose, take both pills at the same time. If you had sex and miss just one pill later that same day, it's unlikely you'll get pregnant as long as you take it within 24 hours.
If you plan on having sex after a missed dose, you should be aware of whether you're taking a combination pill, that contains both estrogen and progesterone, or a progesterone-only pill because the type of birth control you're on will determine whether or not you need extra protection.
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