‘The pill’ is a very effective form of contraception – but only when taken correctly! Alas it’s one of those medications that is subject to user error, and in this case missing a pill can have a profound effect on your life.
Women (and couples) in this predicament are usually searching for instant information, and luckily there are ways to take immediate measures to get back on track with the pill and prevent pregnancy.
So without further ado, here is what to do. Just keep in mind that this information is only for the combined pill. The combined pill Qlaira works slightly differently and the rules here may not apply to you. Please see the ‘patient information leaflet’ link below.
Read more at sexwise.fpa.org.uk/contraception/combined-pill-coc.
First: How many pills did you miss?
You have missed one pill if it has been 24 hours since you last took a pill. If it has been 48 hours since you took a pill you have missed two pills.
If you have missed just one pill you are still protected. Take the pill you missed and the pill you are due to take today (it is fine to take the two pills). This also applies if you are a day late taking your first pill of the month. Continue to take your pills as normal throughout the month, taking your inactive pills or pill-free break. Extra contraception is not necessary.
Two pills or more pills. This depends on where you are in your pack:
First seven days
If you have missed two or more pills in the first 7 days of the packet, or forgot to re-start your pill on time, and have had unprotected sex in the previous 7 days, you are not protected and need emergency contraception. Take your last missed pill now, do not take any other missed pills. Continue to take your regularly scheduled pill as normal (two together if you remember at your normal pill taking time). Get emergency contraception as soon as possible. For the next seven days the pill will not be reliable so either abstain or use additional contraception during this week. If using the morning after pill for emergency contraception read the rules about restarting your usual combined contraceptive pill.
Middle seven days
If you have taken the pill every day for at least 7 days, you are not at risk of pregnancy. Take your last missed pill now, along with your regularly scheduled pill (it is fine to take two pills). Do not take any other missed pills. Use extra contraception i.e condoms for the following seven days.
Last seven days
If more than 2 or more pills are missed during the last 7 days of the packet, the next pack should be started immediately without a 7-day pill-free interval. Take your last missed pill now, along with your regularly scheduled pill (it is fine to take two pills). Do not take any other missed pills. Emergency contraception is not needed. Additional precautions are needed for the next seven days.
For more information on what to do if you miss a pill, visit this page on the NHS website What should I do if I miss a pill (combined pill)?; and if you miss a progestin-only pill: The progestogen-only pill; or a Qlaira pill: Qlaira information leaflet.