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How to Make Up Missed Birth Control Pills

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Birth control pills are up to 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, but only when the pills are used consistently and correctly every day. It sounds simple to do, but inevitably you may forget a pill for any number of reasons: vacation, illness, spontaneous romantic voyage with the love of your life (wishful thinking).

When you use birth control pills, create a list with the following information: drug name (brand/generic), type of drug, dosage, strength/amount of active ingredients and usage instructions. Post this list (see example of information to include: personal health record example) on the inside of a medicine cabinet for quick reference, and always have one copy of the “Patient Information Brochure” easily accessible.

Birth control pills range in levels of synthetic estrogen they contain (most commonly prescribed are the "low dose" of 30 mcg estrogen):

  • "very low dose" of 20 mcg of estrogen (ethinylestradiol)
  • "low dose" of 30-35 mcg of estrogen
  • "high dose" of 50 mcg of estrogen
  • “mini-pill” contains no estrogen, only progestin

What can you do if you miss taking your birth control pills?

For 30–35 µg ethinylestradiol pills (most commonly prescribed):
Missed 1 or 2 active (hormonal) pills or if she starts a pack 1 or 2 days late:

  • Take an active pill as soon as you remember, and then continue taking pills daily
  • No need for any back-up birth control (i.e., no condoms needed)

Missed 3 or more active pills, or if started a pack 3 or more days late:

  • Take an active pill as soon as you remember, and then continue taking pills daily
  • Important to use condoms or abstain from sex until you have taken active pills for 7 days in a row
  • If you missed pills in the third week, finish the active pills in current pack and start a new pack the next day. Do not take the 7 inactive pills.
  • If you missed pills in the first week and had unprotected sex, you may consider using emergency contraception.

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I stopped taking pills on the 3rd week of the pack and had unprotective sex. Will i get pregnant?

July 18, 2014 - 2:18pm

I have another question...I took last Saturday and Sundays birth control pill last Monday and then I took monday and Tuesday birth control pill on Tuesday...I had unprotected sex with my boyfriend on that Monday..I want to know if there is a possibility that I could get pregnant since I took my pills late..

March 4, 2012 - 3:33pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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