How Bad Is It To Miss A Birth Control Pill?

Like, on a scale of 1-pregnant, how screwed are you?

Every person on the pill knows the moment of terror that comes from missing a dose.

Every person on the pill knows the moment of terror that comes from missing a dose.

Are you screwed? Are you desperately searching for condoms? ARE YOU LITERALLY ALREADY PREGNANT?

Even though the pill is over 99% effective with perfect use, it has a 9% failure rate with typical use, according to research from The Guttmacher Institute. And typical use includes people who use it imperfectly or incorrectly – like missing pills every once in a while.

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It turns out, missing *one* pill usually isn’t a big deal.

It turns out, missing *one* pill usually isn't a big deal.

If you’re taking combined oral contraceptives (birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progestin), one late or missed dose isn’t a reason to panic, Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, board-certified OB-GYN, tells BuzzFeed Health.

Just take it as soon as you remember and get on with your life – even if that means taking two pills in one day. There’s no need for a backup method of birth control like condoms, according to Minkin and CDC recommendations.

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But there are two pills you really don’t want to miss: the first one in the pack or the last one before your placebo week.

But there are two pills you really don't want to miss: the first one in the pack or the last one before your placebo week.

These are the ones that really matter, Dr. Nerys Benfield, assistant professor and director of family planning at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, tells BuzzFeed Health. Especially if you’re on a method with 21 active pills and 7 inactive pills.

Here’s why: One of the ways birth control suppresses ovulation is by suppressing the production of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) by the pituitary gland, explains Minkin. Research tells us that FSH production remains suppressed even during those seven days of inactive pills, but if you lengthen that hormone-free interval – even by a day – your body may start prepping for the process of ovulation again, says Benfield.

That’s why you really don’t want to miss the one pill before or after the placebo week. If you do, take it as soon as you remember, and then use backup birth control (like condoms) for the next week. It’s unlikely you’d get pregnant, says Minkin, but it could happen if you have sex without a condom around that time.

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If you’re on a progestin-only pill (also known as the minipill), you need to be more cautious about late or missed pills at ANY point in your cycle.

If you're on a progestin-only pill (also known as the minipill), you need to be more cautious about late or missed pills at ANY point in your cycle.

The progestin-only pill is much less common, but it’s recommended for people who can’t take combined pills, since it’s safe to use even if you have high blood pressure or a history of blood clots.

The downside: There’s less leeway when it comes to missing a dose. If you’re more than three hours late taking the progestin-only pill, it’s recommended that you use a backup method of birth control (or abstain from sex) until you’ve taken the pills correctly for at least two consecutive days. You should also take the late/missed pill as soon as you remember it, even if that means taking two pills in one day.

Casey Gueren / Via BuzzFeed News


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