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What to Do About Missed or Skipped Birth Control Pills

Overview

Follow your health professional's instructions on what to do if you miss or skip your birth control pills.

Always read the pill label for specific instructions. Or call your doctor. How likely pregnancy is depends on a few things, such as when you missed the pill, how many pills you missed, what kind of pills you take, and whether you had sex.

Combination (estrogen plus progestin) birth control pills

Here are some basic guidelines:

  • If you miss one hormone pill, take it as soon as you remember. You may need to use a backup birth control method.
  • If you miss two or more hormone pills, take 1 pill as soon as you remember you forgot them. Then read the pill label or call your doctor about instructions on how to take your missed pills. Pregnancy is more likely. So use a backup method of birth control for 7 days.
  • If you miss pills and have had sex without a backup method of birth control, you can use emergency contraception to help prevent pregnancy. The most effective emergency contraception is an IUD (inserted by a doctor). You can also get emergency contraceptive pills. You can get them with a prescription from your doctor or without a prescription at most drugstores.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea for more than 2 days, use another method of birth control for 7 days. Do this even if you didn't miss any pills.

Progestin-only pills

Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Progestin-only pills must be taken at the same time each day. If you take a pill more than 3 hours late, take it as soon as you remember even if that means you will take 2 pills in one day. Use another method of birth control for the next 48 hours to prevent pregnancy. Consider using emergency contraception if you've had sex in the past 5 days.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea for more than 2 days, use another method of birth control for 7 days. Do this even if you didn't miss any pills.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: November 22, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine

 

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