The INSIDER Summary:
• Missing doses makes your birth control pill less effective.
• The CDC has recommendations for what to do if you miss a pill.
• If you miss one pill, you should take it as soon as you remember.
• If you miss two or more pills, you will need a backup method of contraception.
• In some cases, you may want emergency contraception, like Plan B.
You know you’re supposed to take your birth control pill every day — but sometimes life gets in the way.
If you do miss a pill, two pills, or more, don’t ignore it. Instead, follow these steps from the CDC to make sure that you’re still preventing pregnancy.
If you miss one pill: Take it as soon as you remember.
Take the missed pill as soon as possible, then continue taking your pills as usual, even if that means taking two pills on the same day. You don’t need to use any additional contraception like condoms — with one major exception.
If you miss one pill in the first week of the pack, use backup contraception.
The first week of pills is the most important when it comes to preventing the release of an egg from an ovary, according to Bedsider.
Even if you missed a single pill in the first week, make sure you use a backup method like condoms if you have sex in the next 7 days.
If you miss two or more pills, things get a bit more complicated.
Start by taking the most recently missed pill as soon as you remember, even if that means taking two pills on the same day. Then keep on taking your pills as usual, and use a backup method of contraception if you have sex in the next 7 days.
But timing matters a lot when we’re talking about multiple missed pills.
If you miss two or more pills during the last week of active pills (days 15 through 21 in a 28-day pack) you should start a new pack of pills the next day. If you’re not able to start a new pack right away, that’s ok: Just follow the instructions in the previous paragraph and use back-up contraception until you’ve taken active pills from the next pack for 7 days in a row.
Finally, if you miss multiple pills during the first week of a pack and you’ve had unprotected sex, you might want to consider emergency contraception. Learn more about it right here.
Don’t worry about missing pills from the last row of the pack.
The last row of pills in the pack are known as “placebo pills,” “reminder pills,” or “sugar pills” (since that’s usually all they contain). Unlike the first three “active” rows in the pack, the pills in this last row don’t have any hormones, which is why you have a period when you take them.
You might like them because they keep you in the habit of taking a pill at the same time every day, but you don’t have to take them at all if you don’t want to. If you miss one or a few, you’ll still be protected against pregnancy. Whatever you do, make sure that you start your next pack of pills on the correct day.
If you have a hard time remembering your pill, consider a new kind of birth control.
Next time you see your doctor, ask about more low-maintenance birth control, like the ring, the IUD, or the implant. They’re just as effective as the pill (or more so!) and there’s far less risk for human error.
Check out this simple guide to see which birth control is best for your body.
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