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Missed One Birth Control Pill: What to Do?

Missed One Birth Control Pill: What to Do?

If you forgot or missed one pill, do not panic. It is not that unlikely to miss one since many women experience the same thing: You are not alone. If you need to get back on track with your pills, here are some things you should do and remember.

Missed one birth control pill?

The first step is to know what kind of oral contraceptive you have been taking. It can either be a combination pill or a progestin-only pill.

Combination pills contain both estrogen and progesterone hormones. One pack usually has 21 up to 24 pills which need to be taken every day. They are then followed by a week of placebo pills or reminder pills that do not contain any hormones.

Progestin-only pills are taken at the same time each day. Missing your pill even after a few hours may lead to possible issues since the hormones might have worn off. When missing a progestin-only pill, there is a higher chance of pregnancy since it requires more attention.

The next step is to take the pill as soon as possible after you remember. You can take the rest of the pills like how you would do so normally. You might need to take two pills in a day to stay on schedule. If you have misplaced pills and cannot take the full pill cycle, you may want to use emergency contraceptives like condoms.

What to do when you missed a progestin-only pill

Progestin-only pills are at a higher risk of failing since they need to be taken at very specific times. A pill is considered missed if you take it 3 hours later.

Here are some things you should do if you missed one:

  • Take the missing pill as soon as possible
  • Keep taking your pills like how you would normally do so. You may need to take 2 pills a day to follow your schedule.
  • Use backup methods of contraception or spermicide just in case.
  • Do not engage in intercourse until you have finished taking all your pills.
  • You may want to call a doctor if you have had unprotected intercourse in the last 5 days while taking your progestin-only pills.

What happens when you missed one birth control pill?

Two of the most prominent side effects of missing a pill is spotting or bleeding even if it is not your menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

The hormones in oral contraceptives will wear off in around 36 hours if you do not take them consistently. When you miss a day and a half of birth control pills, hormone levels will decrease and cause spotting.

Chances of pregnancy when you missed one birth control pill

The possibility of getting pregnant will get higher the more days you miss your pills. It is a good idea to have backup methods of contraception as an emergency. If you missed just one pill, there is a lower chance of getting pregnant, unless you had intercourse when you are most fertile in your menstrual cycle.

What will happen if you forget to take the pill for 3 or more days?

If you have not taken any pills for more than 2 days, you cannot prevent pregnancy through birth control pills anymore. You may want to consider using backup methods of contraception if you missed the first week of the pills.

Even if you cannot prevent pregnancy, you should still take the pills. Try to start on a new pack as soon as possible, use emergency contraceptives and avoid intercourse until you have finished your current pill schedule.

Use backup methods as an emergency

When you take a pill 4 hours late; you may want to use a condom or contraceptives with spermicide like the diaphragm, cervical cap, or the sponge; for the rest of the pills in the pack. This also applies when you are currently using an antibiotic.

What to do if you keep forgetting to take a pill?

Even if you only missed one birth control pill, it is still a big deal. When you fail to remember taking birth control pills, you may want to consider trying other methods of contraception such as the barrier methods such as condoms or other hormonal contraceptives like subdermal injections, patches, and the like.

You can also use memory aids such as apps that can remind you to take them on time and a calendar to keep track of your schedule. Setting up alarms may also help you take your pills on time, especially if it is a progestin-only pill.

When to call a professional for help

If you feel any of these signs, you need to contact a clinic, doctor, or family physician:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Leg pain/ Swollen leg

Conclusion

If you missed one birth control pill, you need to take a pill as soon as you remember. You might have to take 2 pills in one day just to get back on track on your schedule. Although the chances of pregnancy is low if you have only missed one, it is still important to remain consistent, or else the hormones in the pill may wear off. If ever you have missed a few days, you must use backup methods like condoms or spermicide and contact a professional regarding your situation.

Learn more about contraception here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

What Happens When You Skip a Birth Control Pill?, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-happens-when-you-skip-a-birth-control-pill/ Accessed October 22, 2021

Birth control pill fact sheet, https://uihc.org/health-topics/birth-control-pill-fact-sheet Accessed October 22, 2021

I Forgot to Take Birth Control: What Do I Do?, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-st-louis-region-southwest-missouri/blog/i-forgot-to-take-birth-control-what-do-i-do Accessed October 22, 2021

What to Do About Missed or Skipped Birth Control Pills, https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw7456 Accessed October 22, 2021

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Written by Angeli Del Rosario Updated Oct 26
Fact Checked by Kristel Lagorza