Ask a Doctor
I’m constantly traveling for my job, so my daily routine is all over the place, depending on what time zone I’m in and whether I’m flying at a given time. This makes remembering to take my birth control pills difficult. Do I have to take the pill at the exact same time every day? What do I do if I miss a dose?
Yes, to make sure your oral hormonal birth control is effective, you should take it at the same time every day. There are several formulations of oral birth control pills but the instructions are generally similar. As an example of proper birth control use, the following are instructions for ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel (Alesse, Altavera, Amethyst):
- Take one pill every day, no more than 24 hours apart. When the pills run out, start a new pack the following day.
- You may get pregnant if you do not take one pill daily.
- Get your prescription refilled before you run out of pills completely.
- Some birth control packs contain seven "reminder" pills to keep you on your regular cycle. Your period will usually begin while you are using these reminder pills.
- Missing a pill increases your risk of becoming pregnant.
- If you miss one active pill, take two pills on the day that you remember. Then take one pill per day for the rest of the pack.
- If you miss two active pills in a row in Week 1 or 2, take two pills per day for two days in a row. Then take one pill per day for the rest of the pack. Use back-up birth control for at least 7 days following the missed pills.
- If you miss two active pills in a row in Week 3, throw out the rest of the pack and start a new pack the same day if you are a Day 1 starter. If you are a Sunday starter, keep taking a pill every day until Sunday. On Sunday, throw out the rest of the pack and start a new pack that day.
- If you miss three active pills in a row in Week 1, 2, or 3, throw out the rest of the pack and start a new pack on the same day if you are a Day 1 starter. If you are a Sunday starter, keep taking a pill every day until Sunday. On Sunday, throw out the rest of the pack and start a new pack that day.
- If you miss two or more active pills, you may not have a period during the month. If you miss a period for two months in a row, call your doctor because you might be pregnant.
- If you miss a reminder pill, throw it away and keep taking one reminder pill per day until the pack is empty
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