Missed Birth Control Pill Guidelines

Missing doses of your birth control pills can be stressful, and is one of the major reasons for unintended pregnancy. If you frequently miss doses of your birth control pills, then it may be best to consider switching to a different birth control method. 

Remember: the most effective birth control method for you is the one that you can remember to use consistently and correctly. You can use Bedsider’s Method Explorer to learn more and find birth control options that you can discuss with your healthcare provider.

If you are a UC Davis student, you can use Health-e-Messaging to communicate with your provider, make an appointment and order birth control refills. You can also make an appointment or contact the Advice Nurse by calling 530-752-2349.

Follow these instructions if you miss taking your combined oral contraceptive pills for the scenario that best fits you.

If you missed 1 active (hormonal) pill or if you started a pack 1 day late

  1. Take active (hormonal) pill as soon as possible and then continue taking pills daily.
  2. No additional contraceptive protection (such as condoms) is needed. Emergency contraception (or "the morning after pill") is not needed.

If you missed 2 or more active (hormonal) pills or if you started a pack 2 or more days late

  1. Take 2 active (hormonal) pills as soon as possible and then continue taking pills daily. You should take 2 pills on the same day. You may take one at the moment of remembering, and the other at the regular time or both at the same time.
  2. Also, use condoms or abstain from sex until you have taken active (hormonal) pills for 7 days in a row.
  3. If you missed the pills in the third week of the pack, you should continue taking the active (hormonal) pills in your current pack daily. When all active pills have been taken, discard the pack and begin a new pack the next day. You should not take the 7 inactive pills.
  4. If you missed the pills during the first week and had unprotected sex you should use emergency contraception for maximum protection, in addition to taking today's active birth control pill.

If you missed any inactive (non-hormonal) pills

  1. Discard the missed inactive (non-hormonal) pill(s) and then continue as scheduled. Be sure to resume active pills on schedule. There should be no more than 7 consecutive active pill-free days between packs.

If you're not sure what to do

  • Continue to take your pill
  • Use an additional method of contraception, such as condoms
  • Get advice as soon as possible

Additional Pill Information

  • The inconsistent or incorrect use of pills is a major reason for unintended pregnancy.
  • Seven days of continuously taking oral contraceptive pills is necessary to reliably prevent ovulation.
  • Women who frequently miss pills should consider an alternative contraceptive method.
  • It is important to take an active (hormonal) pill as soon as possible when pills have been missed.
  • If pills are missed, the chance that pregnancy will occur depends not only on how many pills were missed, but also on when those pills were missed. A simple rule to follow is: never take fewer than 21 consecutive active pills and never have more than 7 consecutive pill-free days between active pill taking periods.
  • The risk of pregnancy is greatest when active (hormonal) pills are missed at the beginning or at the end of the active pills, i.e. when the hormone-free interval is extended.