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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Birth Control
February 2000

Q. What do I do if I miss a birth control pill?

A. Each form of contraception has its strengths. One of the major advantages of the birth control pill is that it is always working, that is, you don't have to do anything (such as putting on a condom or putting in a diaphragm) before having sex. The big drawback to the pill is that you have to take it every day. What to do if you miss a pill depends in part on the type of pill you are taking. The higher dose pills of the past were a bit more lenient in terms of missing a dose. Today, in an attempt to have a safer pill with less side effects, the dose of the hormones are less, but this give less margin of safety should a dose be missed.

Generally, if a pill is missed, it should be taken as soon as possible. This means that if you routinely take the pill in the morning and realize at dinner that you forgot that day's pill, that pill should be taken at dinner. The next day's pill should be taken in the morning. If you discover you missed yesterday's pill, you should take 2 pills today.

If you miss more than two pills in the month (even if you have taken it a day late), you should continue the pill, but use an additional form of contraception for the rest of the month.

More detail is available at http://www.fwhc.org/thepill_n.htm

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