What do I do if I miss a pill?

Dr Lisa Beckett FRACGP

January 2022

If you've ever missed a pill, you're not alone. In fact, research shows that as many as 1 in 2 women will miss a pill at some point. There are a number of reasons why this may happen, from running out of your pill (we won't let this happen!) to simply being too busy. Missing a pill can lead to an increased risk of pregnancy, as well as other health complications. That's why it's important to know what to do if you miss a pill.

Combined oral contraceptive pills 

If you are less than 24 hours late taking an active pill:

Take it as soon as you remember and take the next pill at the usual time; contraception will not be affected.

If you are more than 24 hours late taking an active pill or you miss more than one:

It depends where you are in the packet of pills. 

In week 1:
  • Take the missed pill straight away and further pills as usual
  • Use condoms for the next 7 days
  • Emergency contraception is recommended if you’ve had unprotected sex
In week 2:
  • Take the missed pill straight away and further pills as usual
  • Use condoms for the next 7 days
In week 3:
  • Take the missed pill straight away and further pills as usual
  • Skip the inactive pills and start the next packet when you finish the current packet - you may not experience a withdrawal bleed
  • Use condoms for the next 7 days

Progesterone only pills (minipill)

If you are less than 3 hours late taking an active pill: 

Take it as soon as you remember and take the next pill at the usual time; contraception will not be affected.

If you are more than 3 hours late taking an active pill or you miss more than one: 

  • Take the missed pill straight away and further pills as usual
  • Use condoms for the next 3 days
  • Emergency contraception is recommended if you’ve had unprotected sex

Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception (the ‘Morning After Pill’) can be purchased over the counter without a prescription from most pharmacies. The sooner it is taken after having unprotected sex, the more effective it is. Candor offers a ‘just in case’ prescription for emergency contraception that you can have on hand if needed. Talk to us to find out more. 

What else should I do?

It may be best to set an alarm to remind yourself to take the pill. Often taking your pill at the same time that you do another routine activity - like brushing your teeth- can help you remember. Once you get in the habit you’re less likely to forget. 

If you find you’re missing a lot of pills it may be best to consider a different form of contraception. Talk to your Candor GP or your regular GP about options. 

References

Chabbert-Buffet N, Jamin C, Lete I, Lobo P, Nappi RE, Pintiaux A, Häusler G, Fiala C. Missed pills: frequency, reasons, consequences and solutions. Eur J Contracept Reprod Health Care. 2017 Jun;22(3):165-169. doi: 10.1080/13625187.2017.1295437. Epub 2017 Mar 9. PMID: 28277799

https://www.fpnsw.org.au