When you miss a birth control pill, you increase your risk of getting pregnant. Although oral contraceptives have a high rate of success, with most being 97-99 percent effective, these numbers apply only to women who take the pill exactly as directed at the same time each day. The hormones in birth control pills are designed to be reintroduced to your body every day to prevent you from ovulating. You might release an egg that could get fertilized if you have sexual intercourse after you miss a birth control pill.
If you forget to take your pill at the time you normally would, take it as soon as you remember. You can take two pills in one day if you do not remember until the next day, and you should continue to take the rest of your pills in the pack as normal. Missing more than one pill will require you to read the pamphlet that came with your pills or ask your doctor or pharmacist for instructions on what to do. Different pills require different actions if you miss two pills or more. Some might require you to start a new pack immediately or take the pills for several more days before starting a new pack.
Missing one pill is not usually cause for alarm, if you take it within a day as soon as you remember. You usually will not need to abstain from sex or use a backup method of birth control if you miss one pill and take it by the next day unless the pill you missed was within the first week of starting a new pack. If you miss a birth control pill at the beginning of the pack, abstain from sexual intercourse or use a backup method, such as condoms, for at least seven days. Using a backup method for a week, even if you missed a pill in the middle of the pack, is a good idea for extra protection.
Some doctors recommend that patients use a backup method or abstain from intercourse until they start a new pack if they miss a birth control pill. This is the safest way to prevent pregnancy, if you are concerned about your risk after missing a pill. If you use progestin-only pills, you should use a backup method for at least 48 hours after you miss a birth control pill. These types of pills have lower levels of hormones, and even taking a pill more than three hours later than normal can increase your risk of pregnancy.