Ask Dr. Sally: Forgot to Take My Pill

We welcome questions from readers.  Here’s a question we got this week and our response…

I take my pill like clockwork around 7 am when I get ready. Today I stayed in sweats and just remembered to take it now!  What should I do now?

Late Birth Control Pill(photo credit: Evan via Flickr)

This happens all too frequently, so do not panic!  Before answering this question, it’s important to clarify that you are taking a combined birth control pill.  Another important piece of information is that you realized you missed your morning pill in the early afternoon, so it is only a few hours late.

If a pill is late (it has been less than 24 hours since the last dose was due), the late pill can be taken right away and the daily regimen continued afterwards.  So go ahead and take your late pill now.  You will then continue taking the rest of your pills at the regular time.  In your case this means take the late pill today (a few hours late) and the next pill tomorrow morning.  In other cases, it may mean taking the late pill and the next pill in the same day.  For example, if a woman usually takes her pill every night before bed but forgets a pill and remembers the following morning, she can take the late pill in the morning and the next pill at the usual time at night.

Being a few hours late will not affect the effectiveness of your birth control.  So you don’t need emergency contraception (also known as the morning-after pill) unless you missed other pills recently.  A pill is considered missed if it has been more than 24 hours since it should have been taken.  You could consider taking emergency contraception IF you had missed active pills (pills with hormones) either in the last week of your last pill pack or earlier in this pill pack.  You don’t need to use another form of birth control either since your birth control pills should prevent pregnancy.

I hope this information alleviates your concerns.  It sounds like you’re generally able to stick to your schedule.  If that changes, you can either change your regular pill schedule to a different time of day or think about changing to an easier method.

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