You’ve Missed A Birth Control Pill. Now What?

by | Nov 10, 2021 | Sexual & Reproductive Health

In theory, the oral contraceptive pill is 99-percent effective when used correctly 100-percent of the time. Further into the rabbit hole, that means the oral contraceptive pill is 99-percent effective when taken at the exact same time of every day. Any variations to this plan and you could end up surprising yourself with a bouncing baby boy or girl in the not-so-distant (aka nine month) future.

Now, while we all love a good surprise every now and then, an unplanned pregnancy is an entirely different story (and a lifelong commitment). So, what should you do if you’ve missed a birth control pill? Should you immediately head in the direction of your local pharmacy for a dose of the morning after pill? Or, jump online to discreetly organise home-delivered emergency contraception? Let’s unpack!

Once you’ve realised you’ve missed a birth control pill, your first move depends on what type of birth control pill you’re on. There are two common types:

The combination birth control pill, containing the hormones progestin and ethinyl estradiol.

The progestin-only birth control pill (aka the mini pill), containing only the progestin hormone.

If you’re unsure of the type of birth control pill you’re on, you’ll find this information on the packaging. Hot tip: if you see two hormones listed, it’s a combination birth control pill, whereas one hormone will be the mini pill. If in doubt, contact your doctor for confirmation.

What to do if you’ve missed a combination birth control pill and…

  • Less than 3 hours have passed: Don’t panic! The pill will be still be considered “on time”. Take the pill and carry on with your day as per usual.
  • 3 – 24 hours have passed: Take the missed pill as soon as you remember, even if it means taking two pills in one day (it’s totally safe). Then, continue taking your birth control pills as per your normal timing schedule. No emergency contraception will be required, and you’re free to have sex without using an extra form of contraception.
  • 24 – 48 hours have passed: As above, take the missed pill as soon as you remember, even if it means taking two pills in one day (it’s totally safe). Then, continue taking your birth control pills as per your normal timing schedule. No emergency contraception will be required, and you’re free to have sex without using an extra form of contraception unless you’ve missed a pill earlier in your cycle. If you’re concerned, always edge of the side of caution and have a condom on standby.
  • 48+ hours have passed: When you’ve missed two or more pills, take the most recent missed pill as soon as you remember and dispose of the extra missed pills. Do not take more than two birth control pills in one day. No emergency contraception will be required however it’s recommended that you use a back-up form of contraception for the next seven days.

What to do if you’ve missed a progestin-only birth control pill and…

  • Less than 3 hours have passed: Unlike the combination birth control pill, the mini pill is considered “late” at this point. Take the birth control pill as soon as you remember.
  • 3 – 24 hours have passed: At this point, the pill is considered “missed”. Take the pill as soon as you remember, even if it means taking two pills in one day (it’s totally safe). Do not exceed two pills in one day.
  • 24 – 48 hours have passed: At this point, the pill is considered “missed”. Take the pill as soon as you remember, even if it means taking two pills in one day (it’s totally safe). No emergency contraception will be required however it’s recommended to use a back-up form of contraception for the next 48 hours. You aren’t considered to be protected from pregnancy until you have returned to correct usage for two consecutive days.

What to do if you miss a placebo pill?

  • In short; nothing. Placebo pills, or sugar pills, don’t contain any active ingredients to prevent pregnancy. Skip one or skip them all, and you will still be protected against pregnancy provided you maintain your active pill schedule. Your secret is safe with us.

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.

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