Whether you set an alarm on your mobile or rely on elephant-like memory, chances are that if the pill is your contraception of choice, you’re well acquainted with the rule of knocking it back at the same time every day. And, most days you’re pretty good; you take the pill without fail. Other days, you’re just too busy, forgetful, or plain disorganised (no judgment).

So, on the days you miss your designated pill-popping timeslot, should you be worried? Will the pill still be effective if taken at a different time? Well, ladies, how strictly you follow the ‘same time every day’ rule depends on the type of pill you’ve been prescribed.

The combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP) is the most common pill prescribed to women, containing estrogen and progesterone. The combined oral contraceptive pill prevents pregnancy by thickening the cervical mucus to block sperm from entering, whilst also preventing ovulation. It’s recommended that women take the COCP at the same time every day, however a variance of a few hours won’t affect the efficiency.

The progesterone-only pill (aka minipill) is commonly prescribed to women who are breastfeeding, have migraines, or have a history of blood clots. The progesterone-only pill works two-fold by thickening the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg and thinning out the uterine lining to prevent a fertilised egg from implanting the uterus should a sneaky sperm manage to swim through the thickened cervical mucus. The minipill must be taken at the same time every day. Pushing the timeframe boundaries of the minipill by three hours or more can cause thinning of the mucus to the point where it can be penetrated by sperm.

If you take the minipill beyond the three-hour mark, we suggest using a back-up form of protection, like a condom, for the next two days (or avoid sex altogether). Of course, if you ever arrive at the point where you’ve missed a pill for an entire day, don’t panic – this is exactly what you need to do.

This blog is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your medical practitioner.