What should I do if I miss a pill?

If you’ve forgotten or missed a pill or pills, what you need to do will depend on the type of pill you take, where you are in your pill pack, and how many pills you’ve missed.

If you have the information leaflet that came with your pills, that will tell you what you do.

Generally, we recommend the following:

If you’re taking a combined pill

Combined pills include artifcial versions of 2 hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. Check our list of combined pill brands.

If you're taking Daylette, Eloine, Qlaira or Zoely, follow the information given in the patient information leaflets.

Missing a combined pill can mean:

  • you did not take a pill for a day (24 hours) 

  • you’ve vomited within 3 hours of taking your pill or 

  • you had severe diarrhoea for more than 24 hours which means your pill might not have been absorbed fully.

I’ve missed 1 pill

If you’ve missed one pill, anywhere in the pack, or you started a new pack one day late, you’re still protected against pregnancy.

You should: 

  • take the pill you missed now, even if it means having 2 pills on the same day

  • take your next pill at the normal time

  • keep taking the rest of the pack as usual

  • if you have a pill-free break, take it when you usually would.

I’ve missed 2 or more pills

If you’re taking your pill more than 48 hours late, it can affect your protection against pregnancy.

  • take the last pill you missed now, even if it means taking 2 pills in 1 day

  • leave any earlier missed pills

  • use extra contraception, like condoms, for the next 7 days

  • keep taking the rest of the pack as usual.

If you come to the end of your pill pack after missing 2 or more days, check how many pills you have left.

  • if there are more than 7 pills left - finish the pack as usual and take a pill-free break for 7 days when you’ve finished the pack

  • if there are less than 7 pills left - do not take a pill-free break at the end of the pack. Start the new pack straight away.

You might need emergency contraception if you had unprotected sex since you missed the pills or during the 7 days before you missed the pills. Find out about emergency contraception.

If you’re taking a progestogen only pill

If you’re using the progestogen only pill (sometimes called the mini pill), you might know it by the brand names Cerazette, Cerelle, Noriday or Norgeston.

Missing a progesterone only pill can mean:

  • you did not take a pill during the usual time window you take a pill

  • you’ve vomited within 3 hours of taking your pill or 

  • you had severe diarrhoea for more than 24 hours which means your pill might not have been absorbed fully.

If you miss a pill for any reason, you need to know if you’re taking a 12 hour or 3 hour version of the progestogen only pill. This is really important as the missed pill rules are different depending on what kind of pill you are taking.

You can check this by looking for the drug names on your pill package or in the information leaflet that comes with the pill.

  • if the main active ingredient in your pill is desogestrel, then you’re taking a 12 hour pill. This means you need to take the pill within the same 12 hour period every day

  • if there’s no desogestrel in your pill, and the main ingredient is norethisterone or levonorgestrel, then you are taking a 3 hour pill. Each pill must be taken in the same 3 hour period every day.

I’m taking a 12 hour pill

If it’s been less than 12 hours since you were meant to take your pill, you are still protected against pregnancy. You should

  • take the missed pill as soon as you remember

  • take your next one at your usual time and continue with the pack.

If you’re more than 12 hours late with your pill, your protection against pregnancy might be affected. You should

  • take the pill you missed straightaway. Only take 1 pill, even if you’ve missed more

  • carry on with the pack as usual

  • use extra contraception, like condoms, for the next 2 days (48 hours).

I’m taking a 3 hour pill

If it’s been less than 3 hours since you were meant to take your pill, you are still protected against pregnancy. You should

  • take the missed pill as soon as you remember

  • take your next one at your usual time and continue with the pack

If you’re more than 3 hours late with your pill, your protection against pregnancy might be affected. You should

  • take the pill you missed straightaway. Only take 1 pill, even if you’ve missed more

  • carry on with the pack as usual

  • use extra contraception, like condoms, for the next 2 days (48 hours).

I’m not sure what to do

If you’re not sure what kind of pill you’re taking or what to do after you’ve missed a pill, keep taking the rest of your pills as usual.

Use an extra method of contraception, like condoms, to make sure you’re protected against pregnancy. And get in touch with our clinical team by replying to one of the texts we’ve sent you or by emailing info@fettle.health

What if I miss pills a lot?

If you realise that you often forget to take your pill at the right time,  here are some things you can try that might help:

  • make taking the pill part of your daily routine. Maybe take it first thing, as soon as you wake up, or every day after you brush your teeth. Or keep them in the kitchen so you remember to take them after a meal

  • set a reminder. You can set an alarm to remind you at the right time each day. Or look for an app that helps people remember their medication

  • try a different kind of contraceptive. There are a lot of options that do not need you to remember a pill every day. Some options, like the two types of coil or the implant, can protect you for several years. Others, like the ring or the injection, last for weeks at a time.

Helen Burkitt, Senior Sexual Health Nurse at SH:24
Written by Helen Burkitt. Senior Sexual Health and Contraception Nurse

Last updated at: 04 April 2022