What to do if you forget to take birth control pills (besides not freaking out)

Contraception has been a hot topic lately, and around two-thirds of women in the US use some form of birth control. Oral contraceptives – also known as the pill – remain one of the most popular options, but these drugs prevent more than just preventing pregnancy.

“The non-contraceptive benefits of birth control pills are many,” from reducing the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer to treating polycystic ovarian syndrome, said Catharine Marshall, MD, a specialist in gynecology and gynecology at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California.

But one of the pitfalls? Human error. It can be impossible to remember to do something at the same time every day (hello … have you ever tried doing a meditation challenge?). But when it comes to birth control pills, the lack of one – or two … or five – can have life-changing effects. In advance, you will find out what you need to know about the type, timing, and quantity of missed birth control pills – and what to do if you miss a birth control pill.

Birth control pills
Image: Courtesy Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition / Unsplash

This is how birth control pills work

To understand what happens when you fail Taking a pill, it is important to know what these pills do to your body in the first place and how they can prevent pregnancy. And here’s the thing: different pills use different hormones and have different schedules for how quickly they’re broken down and absorbed. That means, depending on which pill you are taking, the lack of a pill can have different effects.

Combination pills: These contain both estrogen (a sex hormone) and progestin (a synthetic version of the sex hormone progesterone). “Combined birth control pills prevent ovulation, thin the lining of the uterus and thicken the cervical mucus,” says Dr. Marshall. (The thinning of the uterine lining makes it difficult for a fertilized egg to attach, and thickened cervical mucus prevents sperm from entering the uterus, according to the US National Library of Medicine.) The final week of the combination packs are sugar pills, sometimes referred to as placebo pills, the one Do not prevent pregnancy and allow you to have your monthly period. (It doesn’t matter if you miss these, but many patients like to keep the regular habit of taking a pill every day so they don’t make it a habit of skipping pills.)

Progestin Pills Only (Also Known As Mini Pills): These pills only contain progestin (a synthetic version of the sex hormone progesterone). “Pills that contain only progesterone thin the lining of the uterus and thicken the cervical mucus, but don’t completely suppress ovulation,” says Marshall. “These are slightly less effective at preventing pregnancy and are used when women are breastfeeding or have reasons for not being able to take an estrogen-based birth control pill (such as high blood pressure, migraines, risk factors for blood clots and stroke, sickle). Cell anemia and smokers). “

What if you miss a birth control pill?

Combination pills: If you landed on this article because you forgot to take a birth control pill in a combination pack – regardless of where you are on your cycle – it is recommended that you take the pill as soon as you realize you’ve forgotten, says Dr. Marshall. From there, take one tablet every day as directed, she adds.

Forgetting to take birth control pills is usually not a big problem. You chill. “A forgotten pill cannot reverse ovarian suppression,” says Dr. Marshall. This means that you will not ovulate and therefore have a chance of becoming pregnant. “It can cause spotting or other uncomfortable symptoms – but no additional contraception is required.”

Progestin Pills Only (Also Known As Mini Pills): The minipill is “not as strong an ovulation inhibitor as a combination pill,” says Dr. Marshall. For this reason, progestin-only pills are more difficult when it comes to missed or late doses. In fact, according to the Cleveland Clinic, it is “missed” if more than three hours have passed since you should have taken your pill. (However, if your minipill also contains the drug desogestrel – it should be noted on your box – you have a 12-hour window before it is considered missed, according to the UK’s National Health Service.)

“If you forget a mini-pill, take it as soon as you remember – sometimes that means taking two pills on the same day or even at the same time,” says Dr. Marshall. “It is recommended that you use an additional method of contraception for at least two days after a missed dose of the minipill.”

missed birth control
Image source: Coalition for Reproductive Health Care / Unsplash

What if you miss two (or more) birth control pills?

Combination pills: If you forget two (or more) birth control pills, your chance of conceiving increases. Take your pills regularly at the usual time and use additional contraceptives (e.g. condoms), advises Dr. Marshall. “If you miss two or more pills, there is a risk of ovulation.” You should keep using the backup protection until after your next period. For your information, you may also have symptoms from forgotten pills, such as breakthrough bleeding / lube, cramps, etc.

Timing also plays a role here. If you miss two or more tablets in the first week of your cycle – and have unprotected sex that week – you should use emergency contraception (such as Plan B) because you will be most fertile at the beginning of the cycle, right after giving birth. she explains. And “If you missed two or more pills in the last week of the hormone pills – week three or days 15-21 in a 28-day cycle – you should end the last week of the pill and then skip the placebo pills (the fourth week or row ) and start a new pack the next day, ”says Dr. Marshall.

Progestin Pills Only (Also Known As Mini Pills): In this case, you are not protected from pregnancy and should use a backup method (or not have sex). Take your forgotten pill as soon as you remember – but only one, even if you’ve forgotten two or more. Then take your next pill at the usual time, even if that means you will take your forgotten pill and your next pill at the same time. Take your pill as normal and, after taking your minipill on time for two consecutive days, you should be protected against pregnancy again.

When in doubt, drop your gynecologist a message or see your BC package for more information (although they are not always in plain English).

If you regularly miss a lot of pills …

Dr. Marshall has one suggestion if you miss more than one pill on a regular basis: change your birth control. There are a variety of options depending on your physiological needs and your level of family planning or pregnancy prevention.

Long-term alternatives like IUDs are also great birth control options for women who are solely interested in preventing pregnancy.

This story first appeared on www.shape.com

(Main and main image source: Getty Images)

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