I Forgot to Take My Birth Control Pill; Now What Do I Do?

Birth Control Pills
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Question:

I forgot to take my birth control pill. Now what do I do?

Answer:

While the birth control pill has an extremely high rate of success, in those cases where it does fail, it is almost always due to user error. In fact, being even 12 hours late in taking your birth control pill increases your chances of getting pregnant. 

If you miss any of the first 21 pills in your pack you need to use an alternate birth control method, such as a condom, for the next seven days.

If you are less than 24 hours late taking your birth control pill, take your pill immediately and then resume your regular pill schedule. However, if you remember to take your pill the next day and realize you forgot it the day before, take both pills at the same time.

Never take more than two pills in one day, unless directed to do so by your health care provider.

If it's been over 24 hours since you took your last birth control pill, take the last pill you missed and then take the next pill as scheduled. If you've missed more than one pill, throw away those you missed and take the rest of your oral contraceptive package as scheduled.

Should you forget to take a birth control pill during the third week of your pack, finish all of the oral contraceptives in your pack and skip the last seven (non-hormonal) pills. Instead of taking those last seven pills, immediately begin a new birth control pill pack, understanding that you may not have another period until you are finished with this new package.

Use another method of birth control until you have taken 7 pills from the new oral contraceptive package.

Are There Other Methods of Birth Control I Can Rely On Until I Get Myself Back on Track?

As mentioned above, you should use a condom for seven days after you've missed a pill. And if you've missed two or more pills in one cycle, you should use a condom for the rest of your cycle, until you get yourself back on track.

Using a condom and spermicide with a diaphragm or cervical cap during your fertile period can also be a life saver. It's been shown to result in almost 100 percent contraceptive success.

You can also call your physician and ask for an emergency contraceptive if you realize you've had unprotected sex. You have 72 hours after unprotected sex for emergency contraceptives to be effective.

Recommended Reading

How to Use Birth Control Effectively. Fifty-three percent of unplanned pregnancies occur in women using contraceptives. Birth control pills and other contraceptives must be used exactly as directed in order to be effective. 

When Should I Take the Pill? It's important to take the birth control pill at the same time each day. Most oral contraceptives have about a 1- to 2-hour window in which effectiveness is not compromised.

How Effective Is the Birth Control Pill? Taken properly, the birth control pill is one of the most effective methods of preventing unplanned pregnancy, with a 99.7 percent success rate.

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