The combined pill: What happens if you miss a pill?

When you have to take a pill regularly, it can be pretty easy to forget. NBD - right? Well…there might be an issue if you forget THE pill that prevents you from getting pregnant. And by ‘issue’ we mean a potential human growing inside you. Concerned about a missed pill? The Mix explains what happens if you miss a pill when you’re taking the combined pill.

A young woman is sitting down. She has missed a pill.

The following answers relate to the combined pill ONLY i.e. a rigevidon missed pill or a microgynon missed pill. If you have missed the mini pill (the progestogen only pill) see this article.

What to do if you’ve missed a pill

First of all – don’t panic. And stop frantically googling ‘what happens if you miss a pill’. Luckily you only have to take one pill in one day, so all isn’t lost. Second – follow these steps: 

  • Take the last pill you missed now (like right now).
  • Continue taking the rest of the pack as usual.

Good news is you’re still protected against pregnancy. As long as you’ve only missed one pill while having unprotected sex no emergency or extra contraception is necessary.

What to do if you’ve missed two or more pills in a row?

Okay this is where things get *slightly* more risky. But, once again, just focus on these steps: 

  • Take the last pill you missed now.
  • Continue taking the rest of the pack as usual.
  • Leave any earlier missed pills.
  • Use an additional method of contraception such as condoms for the next seven days.
  • If you’ve had unprotected sex in the previous seven days, you may need emergency contraception. That’s SEVEN days, not the last 24 hours or 48 hours. Go to your GP or family planning clinic and give them your patient information for further advice. See our article on the morning after pill here.
  • If there are seven or more pills left in the pack, finish the pack and have the usual seven day break. Otherwise, finish the pack and begin a new one the next day. Basically just try your best to stay on schedule.

Spotting halfway through your cycle after a missed microgynon pill

Honestly, this is very common no matter what pill you take. So there’s no need to worry. On the combined pill you may even find that the spotting continues to the end of this packet of pills. But it’ll normally sort itself out and go back to your normal pattern after you’ve had the seven-day break. 

If you only missed one pill then your contraception is still working. This means you should just breathe a sigh of relief and continue to take your pills as normal.

What to do if you’ve missed the first pill in your packet

As long as you took the last seven pills of the previous packet correctly you’re still protected. Even after missing the first pill after you started a new pack. If you forget any more pills in the first week of the packet then you won’t be protected. That’s why it’s extremely important to take the rest of the pills correctly. Don’t just assume that everything’s gone to shit just cause you messed up once.

What happens if you miss the last pill in your pack?

If you’re taking the combined pill there’s no need to panic: it’s fine to take only 20 pills instead of the normal 21. By missing the last pill in the packet all you’ve done is start your pill free week a day earlier than normal. No harm, no foul. 

What you need to do now is count this day as day one of the seven-day break. Have seven days without taking a pill and start your new packet on the eighth day. The only issue is that you’ll have to remember that from now on you’ll stop and start your packet on a different day of the week. Adjust your brain accordingly. If you follow these instructions your contraception’ll be working like a charm.

I’ve missed a pill and my period is now late. Is this normal?

Missing a period when you’re on the pill is actually quite common and normally nothing to worry about. Assuming that you’ve taken all the pills correctly. However, if you’ve missed a pill and your period hasn’t come when you expected, that’s a red flag. In that case, it’s always wise to speak to someone, ideally a medical professional, about your situation; missing a period can be a sign of pregnancy. It’s also worth noting that sometimes contraception fails, even if you haven’t missed a pill.

Is the pill still effective after mild diarrhoea?

Mild diarrhea is not usually an issue. The pill only stops working in cases of severe diarrhoea (the type that you get when you have food poisoning) or if you’ve been physically sick. If it’s mild, just continue to take your pills as normal. This advice applies regardless of what type of pill you take.

Please note that this is only a general guide. We cannot give advice specific to you as an individual – if you have any further concerns, consult your GP (doctor) or contact the fpa immediately.

Next Steps

  • Brook's Contraception tool helps you work out best contraceptive method for you.
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FAQ| pill

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 30-Jun-2022