What to Do If You Missed a Birth Control Pill

When taking or using birth control, it’s important to use it as directed.  In the case of birth control pills, this typically means taking a pill every day at the same time – on a schedule. Unfortunately, sometimes our busy days get the best of us, and it’s common for women to miss a birth control pill or not use a contraceptive measure as indicated.

If you’ve missed a birth control pill, it can be worrying, but there are extra steps you can take to make sure your contraceptives are still working, and A Woman’s Healing Center’s doctors are here to help you.

If You Miss One Pill

If one pill is late (less than 24 hours since it should have been taken), or missed (between 24 and less than 48 hours since it should have been taken), here is what you should do:

  • Take the late or missed pill as soon as possible once you realize it has been missed
  • Make sure you keep taking the rest of your pills on schedule, even if you have to take two in one day

Additionally, no extra contraceptive protection should be needed if you’ve only missed or taken one pill late. If you missed hormonal pills earlier in the cycle or in the last week of your previous cycle, you might consider taking an emergency contraceptive. But these emergency contraceptives are not usually needed.

If you’re concerned about missing a birth control pill, we always recommend that you utilize a backup barrier method such as condoms.

If You Miss Two or More Pills

If it’s been 48 hours or more since you were supposed to take a birth control pill, here is what you should do:

  • Take your most recently missed pill. Other missed pills from earlier in the cycle can be thrown away (do not take more than one pill at a time).
  • Keep taking the rest of your pills on schedule, even if you have to take two in one day

If you missed pills in the last week of hormonal pills (for example, days 15-21 in a 28-day pack), you should:

  • Finish the hormonal pills in your current pack, skip the hormone-free pills in the pack, and start a new pack the next day

If you can’t start a new pack after taking the last week of hormonal pills, use backup contraception like condoms. Or you can avoid sexual intercourse until you’re able to take hormonal pills from your new pack for 7 days straight.

If you missed hormonal pills during the first week and unprotected sexual intercourse occurred in the previous 5 days, you should consider emergency contraception. It can also be considered at other times as appropriate for you.

If You Miss Other Forms of Birth Control

Of course, there are other forms of birth control that can be missed or used late, like the hormonal patch or vaginal ring. But, like the pill, there are steps you can take for missing these forms of birth control too.

Hormonal Patches

If you delay putting on your patch, or your patch comes off in less than 48 hours, here is what you should do:

  • Apply a new patch as soon as possible. If it has been less than 24 hours since the patch was put on, try to reapply it
  • Continue to change your patch on the same day as you did previously

Additional contraceptive protection likey isn’t needed. Emergency contraception isn’t usually needed but you can consider it if your delayed application or detachment occurred earlier in the cycle or in the last week of the previous cycle.

If you delay putting on your patch, or your patch comes off for more than 48 hours, here is what you should do:

  • Apply a new patch as soon as possible
  • Continue to change your patch on the same day as you did previously
  • Use backup contraception, like condoms, or avoid sexual intercourse until you’ve had a patch on for 7 straight days

If your delayed application or detachment occurred in the third patch week:

  • Skip the hormone-free week by finishing the third week of patch use (keeping the same patch change day), and then start a new patch immediately.

If you can’t start a new patch right away, use back-up contraception or avoid sexual intercourse until you’ve had a new patch on for 7 straight days. Consider emergency contraception if the delayed application or detachment occurred within the first week of patch use and you had unprotected sexual intercourse in the previous 5 days. You can also consider emergency contraception at other times as appropriate for you.

It should also be noted that if you aren’t sure when the detachment of your patch happened, consider it to have been detached for more than 48 hours.

Vaginal Rings

If you delay the insertion of a new ring, or the reinsertion of a current ring for less than 48 hours, here is what you should do:

  • Insert a ring as soon as possible
  • Keep your ring in until your usual removal day

If it’s been less than 48 hours, extra contraceptive isn’t needed. Emergency contraceptives shouldn’t be needed either but can be considered if delayed insertion or reinsertion occurred earlier in the cycle or in the last week of the previous cycle.

If insertion of a new ring or the reinsertion of a current ring is delayed for more than 48 hours, here is what you should do:

  • Insert a ring as soon as possible
  • Keep your ring in until your usual removal day
  • Use backup contraception, like condoms, or avoid having sexual intercourse until your ring has been in for 7 days straight

If the ring removal happened in the third week of use, here is what you should do:

  • Skip the hormone-free week by finishing the third week of ring use, and then insert a new ring immediately.

If you can’t start a new ring immediately, use back-up contraception or avoid sexual intercourse until your ring has been in for 7 days straight.

It should also be noted that if you’re unsure how long your ring has been removed, consider it to have been removed for more than 48 hours.

Printable Information Sheet

If you would like to print this information for future reference, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has 2 page PDF document with information on the steps to take following a missed birth control pill, patch or ring.  Click the image below to open the PDF in a new window to save or print it.

cdc recommendations missed or late oral contraceptives

Our Approach to Birth Control

No matter what kind of birth control you use, we want to make sure it works for you. If you’d like to speak to one of our Fort Collins gynelocogists about your birth control options, please get in touch with us, or fill out the form below to request an appointment. You can also take a look at our other resources on birth control here.

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