Here's Your Go-To Game Plan If You Just Realized You Missed A Birth Control Pill

by Caroline Burke
Originally Published: 

Remain calm. I repeat, remain calm. You may have just looked down at your birth control pack to see a pill underneath yesterday's title, and you may or may not be on the verge of freaking out. Birth control is a science, after all, so it's certainly not good news to realize that you've messed with the chemical formula that keeps the babies at bay. But again, there's no need to panic, because I'm here to tell you what happens if you miss a birth control pill.

I'll say this again, because it's important: First, don't panic. This might not be as clean an answer as you'd like, but for the most part, missing a birth control pill is not the end of the world. So the last thing you should do is totally freak out about it.

Next, assess the damage. How many pills have you missed exactly? How far along in your birth control pack are you? Contrary to what many people think, you're not completely messing up your birth control if you don't take it at the same exact time every single day. For this reason, it's not the end of your reproductive world if you miss a pill one day.

Here's a quick rundown of what to do, depending on how many pills you missed, and in what part of your cycle: If this happens in the first or second week of your pill pack, you should take the missed pill as soon as possible, then continue with your regularly scheduled programming — I mean pill-taking. Doubling up on pills the day after you missed one, in general, will make up for the pill's absence, according to Mayo Clinic.

Missing one pill in the first two weeks shouldn't mess up your contraceptive efficacy, as long as you take the missed pill immediately.

What's more, you shouldn't need any additional form of contraception, like a condom, although if you want to be extra cautious, the safe bet is to always use a condom if you've messed with your birth control at any point.

Now, if you miss a birth control in the the third week of your cycle, or if you miss more than two pills at any point throughout the pack, that's when things start to get a little more complicated.

If this happens, here's what you should do if you miss multiple birth control pills: For birth control packs with a "day one start" pill, you should get rid of the entire pack and start a new one. But if you use a pill that has a "Sunday" start, just keep taking the pills (without doubling up) through the next Sunday, then start a new pack that Sunday.

The third week of your birth control pill pack is the most important, and the most sensitive.

For this reason, if you miss a pill during this week (or multiple pills at any other point), you should use a backup birth control method (like condoms) for at least seven days following the dosage mishap.

During those seven days, you should be getting back into the pill routine so that your body gets back up to contraceptive speed, and you're protected from pregnancy by the end of the week.

If at any point you're getting confused about what to do exactly, most birth control pill packs come with instructions about what to do if you miss a pill. But generally speaking, it's best to use an alternative birth control method in addition to the pill for the rest of your pack if you missed a pill at any point, just to be safe. Additionally, it's always a good idea to contact your doctor if you think the effectiveness of your birth control is at risk for any reason.

When used regularly and consistently, birth control pills hover around 99 percent efficacy.

However, when the average person takes them, according to Planned Parenthood, the efficacy rate lowers to about 91 percent, factoring in inconsistent dosage consumption, aka natural human error.

If you're on the pill, you need to take it seriously, and literally, of course. Take the pill every day at the same time, and if that's unrealistic given your lifestyle (I personally failed at this repeatedly until I finally bailed and got an IUD), it might be time to consider other forms of contraception.

After all, there are too many amazing options for birth control out there to phone in your reproductive health.

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