What to Do If You Miss a Birth Control Pill

Young woman holding pack of birth control pills
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Even if you're typically a grade A student when it comes to taking your birth control pills, life sometimes gets in the way and missing pills can happen to the best of us. What to do if you miss a birth control pill depends on a few things, including how long ago you missed the pill, how many pills you forgot to take, what type of pill you're using, and whether or not you've had sex in the last week.

If you've missed a pill, don't panic. Here's what you should know.

What to Do If You Miss a Combination Birth Control Pill

If you are using a combination birth control pill that contains both estrogen and progestin, here's what to consider.

If You Miss One Pill:

If you miss one pill, take the forgotten pill as soon as you remember. You should still take today's pill at your regular time. If you don't realize you missed a pill until your regular time, take both pills at that time.

Missing one pill slightly increases your chance of pregnancy, so consider using a backup method, like an over-the-counter birth control option, for the next seven days.

If You Miss Two Pills:

If you miss two pills in a row, take the two pills as soon as you remember and two pills the following day. Due to the higher concentration of hormones, some spotting may occur and some people may experience nausea.

Use a backup birth control method until your next period and pill pack.

If You Miss Three or More Pills:

If you have missed three or more pills, you can:

  • Begin a new pack of pills the following Sunday (after missing the pills), even if you have started bleeding. You should continue to use an additional birth control method for the first 14 days of the new pack of pills.
  • Take two pills for three days to get back on track (while using a backup birth control method).
  • Choose to stop taking the remainder of the pills, throw away the pack, and start a new pack.

If you miss three or more pills in a row, use a backup method of birth control until your next period and pill pack.

Note: These guidelines apply to common combination birth control pills that contain equal doses of estrogen and progestin for the duration of the cycle. If you use a pill that is biphasic or triphasic, meaning the hormone levels vary throughout the month, consult with the product directions or with your health care provider about what to do if you miss a pill.

If You Miss a Pill During Week 4 or 13:

Most combination birth control pills have placebo that don't contain any hormones. The placebo time-frame varies between pill brands, but is usually all or part of week four for most combination pills and during week 13 for extended cycle pills. This is when withdrawal bleeding, which is like your period, occurs.

If you miss birth control pills during the placebo week, it does not increase your chances of becoming pregnant. These placebo pills are intended to help keep you on your daily pill regimen, so it's a good idea to keep taking them, even if you forget one, so you stay on track and start your next pill pack on time.

What to Do if You Miss a Mini-Pill

The progestin-only pill, or mini-pill, does not contain any estrogen. Because of this, timing is much more important than it is for combination birth control pills. If you are using the mini-pill. here's what to consider.

If You Miss a Pill By Less Than 3 Hours:

If it’s been less than three hours since your scheduled pill time, take the forgotten pill as soon as you remember. A backup method of birth control is not required.

If You Miss a Pill by More Than 3 Hours:

If you are more than three hours late taking the mini-pill, take your missed pill as soon as possible and resume your regular schedule the following day. You will want to use a backup birth control method for the next two days.

If you miss a mini-pill pill and don't remember until the next day, take your missed pill as soon as possible and take your next pill at your scheduled time.

If you are a day late taking your mini-pill, use a backup birth control method for the next seven days.

A Word From Verywell

These tips are meant to be general guidelines and may vary depending on your body and the type of birth control you use. If you haven't discarded it, it is best to read and follow the instructions enclosed with your prescription to know exactly what to do about missed birth control pills. If you're still unsure, ask your health care provider.

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