What to Do If You Forgot to Take Your Birth Control Pill

Birth Control Pills
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While the combination birth control pill has an extremely high rate of success, in those cases where it does fail, it is almost always due to user error. In fact, being even 12 hours late in taking your birth control pill increases your chances of getting pregnant.

If you miss any of the first 21 pills in your pack you may need to use an alternate birth control method, such as a condom, for the next seven days.

Less Than 24 Hours

If you are less than 24 hours late taking your birth control pill, take your pill immediately and then resume your regular pill schedule. However, if you remember to take your pill the next day and realize you forgot it the day before, take both pills at the same time. (If you make up your pills within the first 24 to 48 hours as directed, you do not need back up contraception but if you choose to use it that is fine.)

Never take more than two birth control pills in one day, unless directed to do so by your healthcare provider.

More Than 24 Hours

If it's been over 24 hours since you took your last birth control pill, take the last pill you missed and then take the next pill as scheduled. If its been 48 hours or more and you've missed more than one pill, take the one that you missed most recently and throw away any other missed pills and take the rest of your oral contraceptive package as scheduled. Use a back-up method such as a condom or avoid sex for seven days.

During the Third Week

Should you forget to take a birth control pill during the third week of your pack, finish all of the oral contraceptives in your pack and skip the last seven (non-hormonal) pills. Instead of taking those last seven pills, immediately begin a new birth control pill pack, understanding that you may not have another period until you are finished with this new package. Use another method of birth control until you have taken 7 pills from the new oral contraceptive package.

Using Alternative Methods

As mentioned above, you should use a condom for seven days after you've missed your combination birth control pill and have not made up for it in time. And if you've missed two or more pills in one cycle, you should use a condom for the rest of your cycle, until you get yourself back on track. (Always check with the package instructions that come with the birth control pills to make sure you make up your missed pills correctly and are using a back-up birth control when needed.)

You can also call your physician and ask for an emergency contraceptive if you realize you've had unprotected sex or are concerned about missed pills.

Using a condom and spermicide with a diaphragm or cervical cap during your fertile period has been shown to result in almost 100% contraceptive success.

You can also call your physician and ask for an emergency contraceptive if you realize you've had unprotected sex. You have 72-120 hours after unprotected sex for emergency contraceptives to be effective.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control. Recommended actions after late or missed combined oral contraceptives.

  2. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Emergency contraception.

By Tracee Cornforth
Tracee Cornforth is a freelance writer who covers menstruation, menstrual disorders, and other women's health issues.