Missing a progestogen-only pill, also known as the mini pill, can leave you in a panic. But actually, you can be protected for a number of hours if you’ve missed taking it. Below, we explain more about what happens in your body when you miss a pill, as well as what to do.
What happens when you miss a pill?
The progestogen-only pill (or POP) works by thickening the cervical mucus at the entrance to your uterus to prevent sperm from entering. In some POPs, such as Lovima®, they also work by suppressing ovulation so your ovaries don’t release an egg.
However, if you miss a POP, the hormone can stop working fairly quickly and so the cervical mucus could begin to thin out, allowing sperm to potentially get through. There’s also a chance of ovulation occurring, which is why it’s so important to take it at the same time every day.
What should I do if I miss a pill?
If you’re late taking your pill, or you’ve realised you missed taking it altogether, don’t panic. Read our guidance below, which can differ depending on what type of POP you take, to find out what you should do.
You've taken a pill less than three hours late
For many traditional POPs that don't contain desogestrel, you will be protected if you've taken the pill up to three hours late.
Let's say you usually take your pill at 8am each morning, but today you forgot until 11am. What do you do? Take the missed pill as soon as you remember and then take your next pill as normal (8am the following morning). You'll still be protected from pregnancy and you won't need to use extra contraception or emergency contraception.
You've taken a pill more than three hours late
For POPs that don't contain desogestrel, you might not be protected if you've missed a pill for more than three hours.
In this situation, you should take one pill as soon as you remember (don't double up your pills to make up for any you've missed) and then take the next pill at the usual time. This can sometimes mean taking two pills in one day, however you shouldn't take them both at the same time. For example, you usually take your pill at 2pm. However, you missed one and didn't remember until 8am the following day. This would mean you have taken your pill 18 hours too late. It is safe to take one pill at 8am when you remember and then the second pill at your usual time of 2pm.
As an extra precaution, you will need to use alternative contraception, such as condoms, for the next two days. This is the amount of time it takes for the progesterone to thicken the cervical mucus.
If you had unprotected sex during these two days, then you may need to consult a pharmacist or contraception clinic about getting emergency contraception. Emergency contraception ca include a pill, also known as the morning after pill, or an intrauterine device (IUD). Depending on which pill you are taking, your pharmacist may recommend using condoms for up to seven days, because this is how long it takes to prevent ovulation from occurring.
You've taken a pill less than 12 hours late (desogestrel)
POPs that contain desogestrel, such as Lovima®, will still be effective at preventing pregnancy for up to 12 hours after your normal time of taking it.
Therefore, if you've taken a desogestrel pill up to 12 hours late, you will still be protected. Take your missed pill when you remember and then take one at the same time as normal.
You've taken a pill more than 12 hours late (desogestrel)
If you've missed a dekogestrel-containing pill (or multiple pills) for more than 12 hours, then you might not be protected.
In this instance, you should take a tablet as soon as you remember, and then take your next one at the usual time. As described above, this can sometimes result in taking two pills on the same day, which is fine. Lovima® advises that you will also need to use additional contraception, such as condoms, for the next seven days.
If you have unprotected sex during this time, pop in and speak to a pharmacist about your options. This may include emergency contraception.
Where can I get more advice?
For extra advice on what to do if you miss a contraceptive pill, you can speak to or visit any of the following:
- A pharmacist
- A family planning clinic
- A contraception clinic
- A GP
- An NHS walk-in centre
- The Family Planning Association (FPA)
All pills vary, so please ensure you read the patient information leaflet inside your pack or consult your pharmacist for further advice.