Can one Missed Pill Cause Pregnancy?

contraceptive or birth control pills

The effectiveness of birth control pills, often referred to as oral contraceptives, relies on consistent and proper use. Missing a single pill in a birth control pack does increase the risk of pregnancy, but the likelihood of becoming pregnant from missing one pill is relatively low, especially if you promptly take the missed pill as soon as you remember and continue taking the rest of the pills as prescribed.

However, the risk of pregnancy can vary based on where in the pill pack the missed pill occurs and the type of pill (combination pill or progestin-only pill). Here’s a general guideline:

  • Combination Pills (contain both estrogen and progestin):
    • Missing a single pill in the middle of the pack might slightly increase the risk of pregnancy, especially if it’s the first week of the pack or the days just before or after the placebo (inactive) pills.
    • If you miss a pill:
      • Take the missed pill as soon as you remember, even if it means taking two pills in a day.
      • Continue taking the rest of the pack at your usual time.
      • Use backup contraception, such as condoms, for the next 7 days after the missed pill to ensure protection.
  • Progestin-only Pills (Mini-pills):
    • Progestin-only pills have a stricter time window for effectiveness compared to combination pills. Missing a pill by even a few hours can increase the risk of pregnancy.
    • If you miss a progestin-only pill:
      • Take the missed pill as soon as you remember, even if it means taking two pills in a day.
      • Take your next pill at the usual time.
      • Use backup contraception (like condoms) for the next 2 days after the missed pill.

It’s important to follow the specific instructions provided with your birth control pill and consult your healthcare provider or the pill’s prescription information for guidance on what to do if you miss a pill.

If you’ve had unprotected sex or missed multiple pills in a row, especially in the first week of a new pill pack, there is a higher risk of pregnancy. In such cases, using emergency contraception and discussing the situation with a healthcare professional is advisable.