Contraception guide

What should I do if I miss a pill (combined pill)?

If you're on the combined contraceptive pill and you miss a pill, what you need to do depends on: 

  • how many pills you've missed (you've missed a pill when it's more than 24 hours since you should have taken it)
  • when you missed your pill (where you are in the pack)
  • the type of combined pill you are taking 

This page covers:

What if I've missed one pill?

What if I've missed two or more pills?

What if I'm not sure what to do?

Why this advice may be different from the advice in your contraceptive leaflet

Where to get further advice

This advice is about all combined contraceptive pills, except Qlaira, Zoely, Eloine and Daylette. If you are using one of these types of combined pill, get advice or read the patient information leaflets that can be found on the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.

See What should I do if I miss a pill (progestogen-only pill)? for information about missed pills and the progestogen-only pill.

What if I've missed one pill?

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

  • take the last pill you missed now, even if this means taking two pills in one day
  • carry on taking the rest of the pack as normal
  • take your seven-day pill-free break as normal or, if you're on an everyday (ED) pill, take your dummy (inactive) pills

You don't need to use extra contraception.

What if I've missed two or more pills?

If you've missed two or more pills anywhere in the pack or started a new pack two or more days late (48 hours or more), your protection against pregnancy may be affected. You should:

  • take the last pill you missed now, even if this means taking two pills in one day
  • leave any earlier missed pills
  • carry on taking the rest of the pack as normal
  • use extra contraception such as condoms for the next seven days

When you come to the end of your pill pack, after missing two or more pills:

  • if there are seven or more pills left in the pack after the last missed pill – finish the pack, take your seven-day pill-free break as normal, or take your inactive pills before you start your next pack
  • if there are less than seven pills left in the pack after the missed pill – finish the pack and start a new pack the next day; this means missing out the pill-free break or not taking your inactive pills

You may also need emergency contraception if you've missed two or more pills in the first week of a pack and had unprotected sex in the previous seven days.

What if I'm not sure what to do?

If you're not sure what to do:

  • continue to take your pill
  • use another method of contraception, such as condoms
  • get advice as soon as possible

Why this advice may be different from the advice in your contraceptive leaflet

You may find the advice on this page differs from advice provided in the contraceptive manufacturer's patient information leaflets.

The information on this page is based on recommendations issued by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) in 2011. The recommendations are evidence-based, which means they are supported by a large amount of scientific research.

These recommendations are used in the FPA's combined pill patient information leaflet and in contraceptive guidelines for UK health professionals (PDF, 824kb) from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, as well as in the British National Formulary, a prescribing manual for health professionals.

The manufacturer's advice may be more cautious and say there is a risk of pregnancy if you have missed one pill or a pill is taken more than 12 hours after the usual time.

Where to get further advice

You can get advice from:

  • a contraception (family planning) clinic
  • an NHS walk-in centre
  • NHS 111
  • the FPA 
  • a GP
  • a pharmacist

Find sexual health services near you, including contraception clinics.

Find pharmacists near you.

Find GPs near you.

Page last reviewed: 12/02/2016

Next review due: 12/02/2018

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