If you're taking birth control to prevent pregnancy, realizing you missed a pill can be nerve-racking — but whether you need to use a backup method depends on the type of birth control you're on and how much time has passed since you last took it.
Most oral contraceptives are combination pills that should be taken at the same time every day. If you miss a pill, "it should be taken as soon as it's remembered, even if two are taken at the same time," Felice Gersh, MD, founder and director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine in Irvine, CA, and author of PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist's Lifeline to Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones, and Happiness, told POPSUGAR. For example, if you take your pill every morning at 7 a.m., and you forget on Monday, take it as soon as possible, even if that means doubling up at the usual time on Tuesday morning.
If 24 hours or more pass before you realize that you forgot to take your birth control, Dr. Gersh suggested still taking the pill, but also using a condom or another backup method for seven days. The only exception is if you missed one of the placebo pills at the end of the pack — in that case, you can simply throw it away, without worrying about using another form of contraception.
The stakes are higher with progestin-only contraceptives, also known as the minipill. Dr. Gersh explained that you have only a three-hour window to take the pill you forgot before you lose protection. So, pop the missed pill as soon as you remember, but if it's been more than three hours, use a backup method for the next two days.
Finally, if you're ever confused about what to do, it's best to play it safe. Get back on track with your birth control and use a condom or another form of contraception for a week, just in case. "There's no reason not to do so," Dr. Gersh said.