You know that feeling of momentary panic when you realize you forgot to take your birth control pill? It’s like when you lose your wallet, keys, or phone but the consequence is potentially getting pregnant instead of having to call up your insurance to replace all your cards and phone numbers.
The good news is, you have some leeway if you happen to miss a regular birth control pill (versus a progestin only pill, aka mini-pill) – be sure to read on so you know what to do when this happens and how to get back on track!
One of the top reasons why women miss their pill is due to the fact that they don’t have it on hand because they couldn’t get to the pharmacy on time or they ran out. Don’t let this happen to you.
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How many active pills in a row have you taken?
When you use the birth control pill, patch, or ring, your hormone levels stay up for those three weeks that you are on the active medication. If those levels drop, (aka you take the placebo week pills or you miss three pills or more in a row), then you will get a withdrawal bleed. If you go more than seven days without the hormone, then you risk ovulation (an egg popping out of your ovary) and, thus, pregnancy.
Research has shown that for women who have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) or who are overweight, ovulation might happen after only five days off the pill, patch, or ring. Back in the day, birth control pills contained 100 micrograms of hormones whereas today, they’re down to 20-35 micrograms; the week of the sugar pills was invented when the hormone levels in the pill were higher and therefore stayed in the system longer, so it’s possible that you could pop out an egg on day six or seven. That’s not good for preventing pregnancy!
Let’s say you miss five days of your birth control pills in a row – you’ve basically approximated the placebo week; depending on the pack you have, the week with the sugar pills can be anywhere from four to seven days. This is not a problem if you’ve already taken three weeks of active pills IN A ROW because they’re still working to prevent pregnancy. BUT if you’re only on the first, second, or third week, and you haven’t taken the pill for three to five days in a row, the pill will not be a reliable form of birth control.
The main point: If you plan on having heterosexual intercourse after this “contraceptive accident” it’s best to use a backup method such as condoms. This is especially important if you plan on having sex in the following five days; even if you had sex in the previous five days, it’s smart to use emergency contraception.
What type of pill are you on?
Keep in mind that the effects of missing a few pills also depends on what type of birth control pill you are on such as a “regular pill” (contains both estrogen and progesterone) or progesterone only pill (POP).
If you are using POP and you are late by just three hours, here’s what you need to do:
1) use a backup method if you plan on having sex in the next three days and
2) use emergency contraception if you had sex in the past three days.
Whether you lost a pill or a few, forgot to take it, or simply did not want to, the important thing is that you restart your birth control to continue preventing pregnancy, regulating periods, and reducing acne.
Want to know which birth control method is right for you? Go to Pandia Health’s YouTube channel to learn about FREE birth control delivery and making your #PeriodsOptional. While you’re at it, give us a follow on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook to learn more reproductive health.
Here’s What To Do (if you are on the regular pill, the patch, or the ring)
If you missed one pill/one day on the patch/one day on the ring:
Wondering how to bounce back from missing one day of active pills? Take it as soon as you remember it, with some food to avoid nausea. If you realize that you missed a pill, when you are taking it at your usual time, then take two at the same time.
If you missed two pills:
If you missed two pills, take two pills as soon as possible. Then, take the next two pills the next day and continue on with your regular one-pill-a-day routine afterwards.
If you missed three pills or more:
Three missed pills could lead to you getting your period and more importantly, getting pregnant. Again, if you’re sexually active, make sure to use a backup birth control like condoms and, if you had penetrative intercourse in the past five days, consider using emergency contraception.
How to Skip Your Period
It’s probably best to skip the placebo week and start the next pack so you are only taking the active pills rather than the sugar pills during the fourth week. Why? Well, this way, you’re never off the active pills and the fewer times you’re off the active pills, the lower your risk of pregnancy.
Now you know what happens when you miss a pill and how to make sure that you prevent unplanned pregnancy! Sign up today to get your birth control delivered by Pandia Health, the most trusted provider for birth control delivery and the ONLY doctor-led, women-led, and women-founded and
The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.