Missed A Pill?

In the case of many, but not all, contraceptive pills, forgetting to take one pill, sometimes even two pills in a row, won't reduce your contraceptive protection. However, this depends on the type of pill you use. If you're not sure what to do in the case of a missed pill, the first step is to read the instructions on the slip of paper which you'll find inside the box of pills. If you still have doubts about your protection against pregnancy, or if it's extremely important to you not to take any risk at all, the only way to be 100% sure you're protected is to get the professional advice of your doctor. The guidelines given here are just that - guidelines.

You should try and see your doctor as soon as possible after forgetting the pill. He may recommend that you use emergency contraception, which is effective only within 72 hours (three days) of having sex. Until you see your doctor, use an additional method of contraception, such as condoms.

Combined Or Progesterone Pill?

The guidelines provided below refer to the combined oral contraceptive pill, which contains the oestrogen and progesterone hormones. If you miss a progesterone-only pill, your window of contraceptive protection is much smaller than it would be if you had been taking the combined pill. If you are more than three hours late taking a progesterone pill, you may be at risk of becoming pregnant.

Low Oestrogen Pills

One Missed Pill - If you're taking a low-strength oestrogen version of the combined pill and you've missed only one pill, you probably don't need to worry about getting pregnant. (If you don't know what type of pill you're taking, check the instructions in the box of pills or ask your doctor.) Take the missed pill as soon as you remember, even if this means taking two pills on the same day or at exactly the same time. You don't need additional contraception the next time you have sex. Even if you've had sex in the last few days, you don't need emergency contraception.

More Than One Missed Pill - If you've forgotten to take two pills or more, you are at risk of getting pregnant. Here's what you should do:

As soon as you remember, take only the last missed pill and then continue to take the rest of the pills as normal until the pack is finished. Do not take a seven-day break. Begin the next pack immediately after finishing the first.

For the seven days after you begin taking your pill again, use another form of contraception, such as condoms. It will take seven days for your contraceptive protection to be effective once again. If when you finish the second pack, you don't have a bleed during the seven-day break, see your doctor.

If you had sex in the seven days before your forgot your pill, you should either purchase the morning after pill (emergency contraception) from a pharmacy or see your doctor for a prescription. Do this as a matter of priority.

Standard Oestrogen Pills

If you're taking a 21-day combined pill which contains standard-strength oestrogen, and you've missed any of your pills, then your contraceptive protection may be reduced. If you are taking a 28-day standard-oestrogen pill, and you've missed some the ACTIVE pills in the pack (seven of the pills are dummy pills, they usually have a different appearance to the active pills) then your contraceptive protection may be reduced. If you are not sure which pills you've missed, read the instructions in the box in which the pills came, or ask your doctor.

One Or Two Missed Pills - In the case of the standard-strength oestrogen pill, missing up to two pills probably won't put you at risk of getting pregnant. Take the last missed pill as soon as you remember, and then take the remaining pills in the pack as normal. You don't need emergency contraception and you don't need to use condoms the next time you have sex.

More Than Two Missed Pills - If you've missed three or more active standard-oestrogen pills then you are at risk of getting pregnant. The steps you should take are the same as those described above for the low-oestrogen pill:

As soon as you remember, take only the last missed pill and then continue to take the rest of the pills as normal until the pack is finished. Do not take a seven-day break. Begin the next pack immediately after finishing the first.

For the seven days after you begin taking your pill again, use another form of contraception, such as condoms. It will take seven days for your contraceptive protection to be effective once again. If when you finish the second pack, you don't have a bleed during the seven-day break, see your doctor.

If you had sex in the seven days before your forgot your pill, you should either purchase the morning after pill (emergency contraception) from a pharmacy or see your doctor for a prescription. Do this as a matter of priority.

A Question Of Priorities

What you do if you've forgotten to take a pill will depend on your priorities. Ask yourself this - how important is it to you not to be pregnant? Is it worth seeing your doctor, just in case? Is it really a huge inconvenience to use condoms for the next seven days, if it will guarantee protection?

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