Oral contraceptives are a simple way to significantly lower your risk of pregnancy: They’re painless, easy to take and reduce both the intensity of cramps and the length of your period. However they can be frustrating, since you do have to remember to take them every single day, at the same time, for them to be effective.
So, what happens if you miss a day or two of birth control pills?
How Does the Birth Control Pill Work?
The ovaries produce two types of hormones, estrogen, and progesterone. As estrogen levels rise during the menstrual cycle, it causes the ovaries to release an egg. This process is known as ovulation. Estrogen also causes the mucus in the cervix to thin out, to make it easier for sperm to get to the uterus. If a woman has unprotected sex with a man during this time, sperm will attempt to travel up her reproductive system to fertilize the released egg.
Estrogen also causes the uterine lining to thicken, which makes it easier for a fertilized egg to implant on it, making pregnancy possible. Progesterone causes the thickened uterine lining to release nourishment for the fertilized egg. If an egg is not fertilized, the levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease. As a result, the uterine tissue lining exits the body through the vagina as menstruation.
The Pill works by releasing constant levels of estrogen and progestin (a hormone created by scientists) into your body. Since your body then has a steady stream of those hormones, your ovaries won’t produce additional estrogen and progesterone, and thus, they won’t release an egg every month.
The most popular form of oral contraceptives additionally includes four to seven placebo pills that do not release estrogen and progestin. By taking these placebo pills, the uterus sheds its lining once a month, allowing menstruation to occur. While these pills do not contain any hormones, it’s good to continue taking them to maintain the habit of taking a pill every single day, at the same time.
What Happens If You Miss a Birth Control Pill?
When you take birth control pills every single day, at the same time, you reduce the risk of pregnancy by 99.7%. If you miss one pill, the effectiveness goes down to 91%. The most common reasons for missing a pill include:
- Taking one pill at a much different time than the rest of the days
- Not having a new pack to start as soon as the previous one runs out
If you missed a pill because you forgot to take it, go ahead and take it as soon as you remember, even if that means taking two pills on the same day. Then continue taking the rest of the packet as usual.
What Happens If You Miss Two Birth Control Pills in a Row?
If you miss two pills in a row, your ovaries may produce enough natural hormones on their own and release an egg, significantly increasing the chance of pregnancy. If this happens to you, take two pills as soon as you remember, and two pills the following day. In addition, the next time you have sex, use a back-up birth control method.
If you miss three or more pills, start a new pack the following Sunday and use condoms for at least two weeks as a backup method of birth control.
Contact us at OB-GYN Women’s Center
Being able to plan a family is fundamental. If you have any questions about any type of contraception, let us help you.
At OB-GYN Women’s Center, we’ll provide you with the best reproductive care, taking into account your individual medical needs.
Contact us to schedule an appointment.