It can be easy to lose a pill in a handbag or down the drain. If this happens, the best course of action depends on the type of pill.
In this article, we discuss what a person should do if they lose a combination or progestin-only birth control pill. We also explore how missing a pill can affect pregnancy rates and medical conditions.
What to do if you lose a combination pill
If a person loses a combination pill, they should take the next active pill and request a replacement pack.
Combination pills contain both estrogen and progestin.
Combination pills come in 21- or 28-day packs, which have slightly different instructions:
- People need to take every pill in a 21-day pack to prevent pregnancy. After finishing these pills, they take no pills for 7 days, then start a new pack.
- People also need to take every pill in a 28-day pack, but the final seven pills will contain no medication. These are placebo pills.
If a person loses a pill, they should call their doctor and ask for a replacement pack as soon as possible. In the meantime, the doctor may offer the following advice:
- If you lose an active pill, take the next active pill in the pack as soon as possible.
- If you lose a placebo pill, it is fine to skip the dose, as these pills do not contain any hormones.
If a person loses a pill and fewer than 48 hours have passed since they took their last pill, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend:
- taking the skipped dose as soon as possible
- continuing to take a pill at the regular time of day, even if it involves taking two pills in 1 day
- considering using emergency contraception if pills were also lost or skipped in the last week of the previous cycle or earlier in the current cycle
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