It’s 5pm and you’re on your way home, but you can’t help feeling like you’ve forgotten something. The feeling eventually subsides and you crash out on your bed, just before you see the crumpled blister pack on your bedside table.
You forgot to take the pill this morning.
This is a super common mishap and according to a 2012 study from the UK, over 50% of women forget to take the pill once a month or more . And what’s worse? Over a quarter of Aussie women on hormonal contraception weren’t told by their GP what to do if they forget it .
Dr Google doesn’t help much either, so we’ve simplified things to help answer all your questions about what to do if you miss a pill.
I forgot to take my mini pill
If you’re taking a progestogen-only birth control pill (a.k.a mini pill), it’s especially important to make sure you take it at the same time each day.
If you’re less than 3 hours late:
- You’re still protected against pregnancy
- Take the missed pill as soon as you remember, then take the next pill at the usual time
- You don't need to use extra or emergency contraception
If you’re more than 3 hours late:
- You’re no longer protected from pregnancy
- Take one pill as soon as you remember and only take one, even if you've missed more than one pill
- Take the next pill at the usual time, even if that means taking 2 pills on the same day
- Continue taking your remaining pills each day at the usual time
- For the next 48 hours after taking your missed pill, it’s recommended you use backup birth control like condoms or avoid having sex altogether to prevent pregnancy
- If you’ve had unprotected sex during the 2 days after missing your pill, you may need emergency contraception
I forgot to take the combination pill
We'll start by saying that the information below doesn't apply to 2 specific types of combined contraceptive pills: Qlaira and Zoely. If you’re on either of those, check the info sheet with the package or click the links to find out what to do.
That said, for other combination pills, if you’re less than 24 hours late:
- You're still protected from pregnancy
- Take the missed pill as soon as you remember
- Take the next pill at the usual time, even if this means taking 2 pills on the same day
If you’re more than 24 hours late:
- Take the last pill you missed as soon as you remember
- Take the next pill at the usual time even if this means taking 2 pills on the same day
- Throw away any other missed pills, then continue taking the pill as normal
- Use backup contraception such as condoms, or don’t have sex for the next 7 days
- You may need to skip your hormone-free period or consider emergency contraception (more on this shortly) — instead, throw away the pack and start a new pack the next day
- This is completely safe and will cause you to skip your withdrawal bleed as well as protect you from falling pregnant
If you’re more than 24 hours late and have less than 7 hormonal pills left in your pack:
- Take the missed pill as soon as you remember, then continue taking the remaining hormone pills at the usual time
- When you take the last hormone pill, don’t take the pill-free break or sugar pills
Do I need to take an emergency contraceptive pill?
You might need to consider emergency contraception if you had unprotected sex in the last 7 days and you either missed more than 1 pill or started a new pack more than 24 hours late.
There are 2 types of morning-after pills available from a pharmacist and you don't need a prescription to get either. Talk with the pharmacist or your GP to discuss which is better for you.
I’m changing to a different version of the pill
There are over 30 different pills with varying hormone levels on the market, and they can all affect each woman differently. If you’ve decided to switch things up, it’s important to take extra care to make sure you’re protected from pregnancy during the changeover.
When you finish the last active pill in your old pack, skip the sugar pills and go straight on to the new pack. To be safe, it’s best to use additional contraception for the first 7 days.
If you're thinking about switching to a new pill, we recommend doing it with full and ongoing support from an expert, who can help you figure out which pill is right for you and your own individual circumstances.
That's exactly what you get when you sign up for Kin's pill subscription: a personalised prescription plan, automatic contraception refills delivered straight to your door, and unlimited consults with an Australian practitioner.
I threw up after taking the pill
Sometimes you can be doing everything right, but things just don’t go your way. If you vomit within 3-4 hours or have severe diarrhoea after taking the pill, it may not have time to be absorbed properly.
This is not a big deal, but it’s important to take precautions to make sure you’re still protected from pregnancy. Just treat it as if you’ve missed a pill, as we covered above in this article.
I take the pill continuously and I’m having breakthrough bleeding
Did you know it’s completely safe to take the pill continuously? Not just safe — it can actually be beneficial, as it is a way for you to skip your periods, as well as reduce symptoms of PMS and endometriosis.
It does come with a common side effect — spotting or breakthrough bleeding — though it decreases over time, and most women stop bleeding entirely within 1 year .
However, if you do experience serious breakthrough bleeding where pads or tampons are needed for 3 days or more, you should take a break for 4-7 days before resuming the pill. You’ll still be protected from falling pregnant, so long as you take the pill for at least 7 days following the break.
I forgot to take a sugar pill
Don’t worry about it! This won’t affect your chance of falling pregnant. However, you might want to throw it out anyway to avoid accidentally extending the hormone-free period.
I’m always forgetting to take the pill
Everyone forgets things from time to time, but remembering to take medication can be harder for some people than others. If you’re finding this is happening too often, here are some strategies to help you remember:
- Set a reminder on your phone or download an app to track your cycle like Lady Pill Reminder
- Strategically place your pill pack so you can’t miss it — this could be next to your phone charger, your coffee machine or your toothbrush
- Use visual reminders, like a bright orange post-it note on your bedroom door, to jog your memory when you might forget otherwise
If none of these are working for you, you might want to consider if the pill is the right option for you. Check out our guide on choosing the right contraception, and talk to a medical professional if you have any questions.