If you take birth control pills there’s a solid chance you’re familiar with that sinking feeling in your stomach; the one you get the moment you realize you forgot to take your pill.
Naturally, you jump to conclusions, perhaps suspecting you’re already pregnant (even if you haven’t had sex) or that you’ll definitely become pregnant and will need to take a vow of celibacy for the next 40 days or so. Before you jump the gun, relax and breathe. You aren’t the only woman who has skipped a pill. Even better, we spoke to not one, but two doctors for their best advice on how to handle the situation.
“All of us have missed a pill or two or more–we are only human!” says Dr. Sherry Ross, OB/GYN and Women’s Health Expert in Santa Monica, California. “Let’s be clear: birth control is only as effective as you are compliant. If you a miss one pill, take it as soon as you remember or take two pills at the same time or ‘double-up’ the next day. The chance of you getting pregnant would be unlikely if you get back on track quickly.”
Dr. Sarah Yamaguchi,OB/GYN at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, says taking two pills at once isn’t recommended, but that, in general, if you miss a pill, it is recommended you take the missed pill as soon as possible and also your pill at your normal time. “This may mean two pills the same day, or even at the same time,” Yamaguchi says. “There is no back-up method needed if it is only one pill.”
Things can get tricky though if you’ve been even more forgettable when it comes to birth control and missed more than one pill.
“If you miss two pills, take two pills as soon as you remember or ‘double up’ the next day and the following day,” Ross says. “The chance of you getting pregnant is still very unlikely, but you will need to use a back-up method, such as a condom, during that month if you are having sexual intercourse.”
As for missing three or more pills? This is where you may really begin to notice unexpected changes taking place in your body–irregular spotting or bleeding tend to be more common–and you just took a big leap forward when it comes to your risk of getting pregnant.
“If you miss three or more pills, it gets more complicated and you should contact your healthcare provider for next steps,” Ross says. “Your hormone levels will get disrupted, making the pill less effective. You will need a backup contraception such as a condom until the end of the pill pack if you have missed more than three pills in a row.”
Bottom line: don’t freak if you skipped one pill. Get back on track ASAP and make you life easier by downloading a birth control reminder app to keep you on schedule.
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