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It Happens: What To Do Each Time You F*ck Up Your Birth Control Pill

It's easy to feel invincible when you're on birth control. Each day, you pop a magical pill that allows you to have all the raw dog sex you want (well, kind of — make sure you use condoms if you're not monogamous!) while protecting you from getting pregnant.

But if you're not careful, the pill really can fail you: According to these interactive graphs from the New York Times, the longer you use the pill, the more likely it is that it'll cause an unplanned pregnancy.

The graphs represent how the effectiveness of the pill changes over time for women who take it perfectly (which, let's be honest, is none of us) and for women who take it “typically” — in other words, who forget to take it here or there or who take it at inconsistent times.

If a woman engages in typical use of the pill for one year, there is a nine in 100 chance she will experience an unplanned pregnancy; that's a failure rate of almost 10 percent.

If a woman engages in typical use of the pill for two years, that chance increases to 17 in 100. After three years, it becomes 25 in 100, and after four years, it becomes 31 in 100.

The highest chance of unplanned pregnancy comes after 10 years of typical use: 61 in 100.

But the good news is that if you take the pill perfectly for 10 years, the highest chance of unplanned pregnancy is three in 100.

Clearly, there's an incentive not to mess up taking your birth control pill, but clearly, we also know that we all do it from time to time — so what do you do when you inevitably f*ck up?

There are two kinds of birth control pills: combination pills and progestin-only pills. Both have slightly different rules. This article will discuss combination pills, since most women take those.

Now, thanks to Planned Parenthood, here are all the different ways you can mess up your birth control pill, what will happen each time you do, and what you should do to fix it.

You took your pill at 9 am one day, and then 1 pm the next day.

Birth control pills offer more leeway than you think. While taking it at the same time every day maximizes its effectiveness, the most important thing is that you remember to take the pill every day.

If you pick a time and stick to it, though, taking the pill becomes part of your routine, which means you're more likely to remember.


Your period was so light you forgot it actually ended, so you forgot to start a new birth control pack.

The risk of pregnancy is the greatest if you forget to take the pill in the beginning of your cycle. This is because you'll be coming off your period week, which is the week you take placebo/inactive pills (the pills without hormones in them).

Missing the first few pills of your new pack means you went seven or more days without those pregnancy-preventing hormones in your body.

If you miss the first one to two pills in the first week of your new pack, take a pill as soon as you remember, even if it's not at your usual time.

Then, take the next pill at your usual time. You might be taking two pills in one day, which might make you feel a bit nauseated. The nausea won't last long.

If you are looking to have sex in the next seven days, you'll need an extra form of birth control, like condoms.


You accidentally ignored the birth control alarm clock on your phone, so you just completely forgot to take one or two pills sometime during the month.

If you forget to take one or two pills between days three and days 21 of your cycle, you may have a little spot bleeding.

Take a pill as soon as you remember, even if it's not at your usual time. Then, take the next pill at your usual time.

Again, this means you might be taking two pills in one day, so you might feel that short-lived nausea.

You do not need a second form of birth control during sex for the next seven days.


You skipped three pills in a row during the first and/or second week of your pack.

If you forgot to take three or more pills during the first two weeks of your new pack, you may have a little spot bleeding.

Take a pill as soon as you remember, even if it's not at your usual time. Then, take the next pill at your usual time.

This means you might be taking two pills in one day, so, again, you might feel that short-lived nausea.

The more pills you miss, the greater your risk of pregnancy, so you do need a second form of birth control for the next seven days.

Now apologize to your boyfriend for forcing him to use condoms when he just started enjoying life without them.


You skipped three or more pills during the third week of your pack. You're getting your period soon anyway, so whatever. You got lazy.

Just like the risk of pregnancy is greatest if you forget to take the pill at the beginning of your pack, the risk of pregnancy is the also great if you forget to take it at the end.

The reason is the same: If you forgot to take your pills during the third week (AKA the week before your period starts), your body will soon go seven or more days without those pregnancy-preventing hormones in your body.

If you forgot to take three or more pills during the third week of your pack, you may have a little spot bleeding. Or, since you missed so many days, you may actually get a mini period.

Do not finish the rest of the pack. Just throw away what's left and start a new pack.

If you want to have sex within the next seven days, you do need a back-up form of birth control. Hey, this would mean you'd be having period sex. Go you!


You completely skipped taking either one or all of those inactive pills during the fourth week (AKA your period week).

You're fine, as there are no hormones in the inactive pills. Throw away the missed inactive pills and take the next one at your usual time, if you want.

Or you could just keep skipping the inactive pills. But don't forget to start your new pack on time.

You don't need an extra form of birth control for seven days.

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Alexia LaFata

Digital Editor

Alexia LaFata is a Senior Editor. She's a proud New Jersey native and Boston College graduate. When she's not writing, she's watching documentaries, practicing her Cher impression, or eating pasta. Stalk her at alexialafata.com.
Alexia LaFata is a Senior Editor. She's a proud New Jersey native and Boston College graduate. When she's not writing, she's watching documentaries, practicing her Cher impression, or eating pasta. Stalk her at alexialafata.com.

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