It’s a common question many people ask.

After all, nobody’s perfect, life can get in the way, and almost everyone taking hormonal contraception at some point in their lives will forget to take it.

What you should do to stay protected largely depends on which pill you’re taking, and how many you’ve missed.

Regardless of which pill you’re on, however:

  • do not panic
  • refer to the leaflet provided with the pill for more information
  • and consult your doctor or pharmacist if you require further guidance

Here is our informational guide on what to do next if you’ve missed the pill:

For the combined pill:

With the majority of combined pills, the good news is that you have quite a large window when you miss one.

If you’ve forgotten a single pill, or started your monthly pack just one day later than you should’ve, your contraceptive cover is not likely to be affected, and you shouldn’t need to use extra contraception.

However, you should still:

  • take the pill you have missed when you remember (this might mean taking two pills in a single day)
  • continue to take the pill as before
  • observe the seven pill-free days (or week-long inactive pill period as the case may be if you are on ED packs) as scheduled

The guidelines for someone who has missed two or more pills however, or has started their new monthly pack two days or more late, is slightly different. In such cases, the user should:

  • take the latest missed pill right away
  • disregard any earlier pills which have also been missed
  • then continue to take the pill as before

In addition to the above, extra barrier contraceptive measures such as a condom should be used for the seven days which follow.

Also, when missing two or more pills:

  • if more than seven pills remain in the pack following the last missed pill, the strip should be finished, and the seven day rest period (or inactive pill period) should be observed
  • if fewer than seven pills remain in the pack, following the last missed pill, take the rest of the current strip daily as normal, then start taking the next strip the day after you have finished this (which entails skipping the pill free or inactive week)

Those who have:

  • had unprotected sex in the last seven days
  • and who have missed two or more pills during the first seven days of a new monthly cycle

may need to take emergency contraception in order to stay protected. The use of this however, should not be employed more than three or five days (depending on the product) after unprotected sex has taken place. Refer to our pages on emergency contraception to find out more.

What to do when missing a Qlaira pill

The measures for Qlaira, which as explained elsewhere on our site is a four-staged multiphasic pill, are different to other combined pills.

Where an inactive pill is missed, no action needs to be taken. A missed inactive pill should, nonetheless, be discarded so that it does not cause confusion.

For those who have missed one or more pills, or are more than 12 hours late taking their pill, a flow chart is provided in the patient information leaflet which gives further advice on what to do next.

For the mini pill:

One minor disadvantage of the mini pill is that the window of recovery for a missed pill is smaller than that of the combined pill.

Generally, the mini pill should be taken at the same time time each day. The guidelines with regard to a missed mini pill are therefore slightly more stringent.

If you are taking a progesterone-only pill and are less than three hours late taking your pill; or if you are taking Cerazette and are less than 12 hours late taking your pill; you do not need to take any extra precautionary measures provided you take your pill straight away.

Those who have missed their dose by more than three hours, or more than 12 in the case of Cerazette, will need to do the following in order to stay protected:

  • take the latest pill they have missed as soon as they remember (again, this could mean taking two pills on the same day)
  • disregard any previously missed pills if they have forgotten more than one
  • use barrier contraception for at least two days afterwards if using the regular mini pill, of or at least seven days if using Cerazette.

We should reiterate at this point, however, that if you are ever unsure about any aspect of using the pill, you should ask your doctor or pharmacist for help.