FAQ: Missing the combined pill

Missed your pill? Here's what you need to do.

Girl and packet of contraceptive pills

Don't panic - missing a pill doesn't automatically mean you're pregnant

Please note: The following answers relate to the combined pill ONLY.

I’ve missed one pill. What do I do?

  • Take the last pill you missed now.
  • Continue taking the rest of the pack as usual.
  • No additional or emergency contraception is necessary.

What if I’ve missed two or more pills?

  • 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 (i.e. condoms) for the next seven days.
  • If you have had unprotected sex in the previous seven days, you may need emergency contraception. Go to your GP or family planning clinic for advice.
  • If there are seven or more pills left in the pack, finish the pack and have the usual seven day break. If there are less than seven pills left, finish the pack and begin a new one the next day.

I missed a pill and now I am experiencing spotting half way through my cycle. Is this normal?

This is very common whichever pill you take. On the combined pill you may find that the spotting continues to the end of this packet of pills, but it will normally sort itself out and go back to your normal pattern after you’ve had the seven-day break. As long as you only missed one pill then your contraception is still working and you should continue to take your pills as normal.

I have had mild diarrhoea. Is the pill still effective?

For the pill to stop working you need to have severe diarrhoea (the type that you get when you have food poisoning) or have been physically sick. If the diarrhoea is mild then there’s no need to worry, just continue to take your pills as normal. This is the same whatever pill you take.

I missed the first pill in my packet. Will I still be protected?

As long as you took the last seven pills of the previous packet correctly you’re still protected after missing the first pill. If you forget any more pills in the first week of the packet then you won’t be protected, so it is important to take the rest of the pills correctly.

I missed the last pill in my packet. What now?

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. 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. Remember though from now on you’ll stop and start your packet on a different day of the week to what you had been doing. If you follow these instructions your contraception will be working and it’s safe to have sex.

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

Missing a period when you are on the pill is quite common and this is normally nothing to worry about if you’ve taken all the pills correctly. However, if you’ve missed a pill and your period has not come when you expected it then it’s always wise to speak to someone about your situation. Missing a period can be a sign of pregnancy; unfortunately sometimes contraception does fail even if you have used it correctly.

Please note that this is a guide only – if you have any further concerns, consult your GP (doctor) or contact the fpa immediately.

Photo of girl holding pills by Shutterstock.

Next Steps

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FAQ| pill


Updated on 29-Sep-2015