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What the Yuck: If I forget the Pill, how long am I safe?
January 7th, 2011
03:30 PM ET

What the Yuck: If I forget the Pill, how long am I safe?

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: How many days can I forget to take the Pill without getting pregnant?

None. Skipping even one day can increase your chance of getting pregnant.

One quick exception: If you skipped taking one of the placebo pills at the end of your cycle, you're probably okay. In reality, we don't even have to take those pills; they're usually just sugar pills and contain no hormones. Their sole purpose is to keep you in the habit of taking a pill every day, reducing your chances of missing a pill.

If you realize you've spaced out on one dose, quickly take it or just double up (take two pills) the next day. But if you've missed more than one pill, don't try to catch up; call your doctor. And in either case, use another form of birth control (condoms, for example) for that entire cycle, just to be safe.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011


Filed under: Health.com • What the Yuck

soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Rapturus

    If you're just taking the pill for THAT reason, there are other things that don't require you to take something daily. If you're taking it for P.C.O.D then you should call you're doctor because there are risks due to the fact that some things about that can be unpredictable. My fraternal twin and I both have it, but it doesn't act the same on me as it does with her. Part of the reason a person is prescribed the pills for that is they lower the risk of a cyst rupturing and, of course, bleeding internally.

    January 7, 2011 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Daina

      My fraternal twin got off easy on this one via being male

      January 9, 2011 at 15:38 | Report abuse |
  2. Redditor

    I blame bush and cheney

    January 7, 2011 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Fran

    Wow. I really enjoyed these comments. Unexpected.

    January 8, 2011 at 00:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. LEB

    I dearly hope you're not serious.

    January 8, 2011 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. rh

    Enough education to email a doctor, but not enough to read prescribing information.

    January 8, 2011 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Suzanne

      Good point. That exact same information can be found in the helpful inserts that come along with the Rx. People just don't want to take the time to read it, I guess... which is a shame, because all of the statistical information regarding side effects and possible health risks (like smoking when you're on hormonal B.C.) is in there, too.

      January 10, 2011 at 09:42 | Report abuse |
  6. Melissa

    There is a name for people who use the "Pull and Pray" method: Parents.

    January 8, 2011 at 16:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Todd

      Pull and Pray sounds like a strange form of m@sturbation, but who am I to judge?

      January 10, 2011 at 09:47 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Too bad all the real research rates "pull and pray" (when done *correctly* every single time) to be as effective as condoms.

      January 10, 2011 at 10:19 | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Pull and Pray? What is the praying for? How bout "every man" no matter what. Can feel himself orgasm. I don't wanna hear about, "Oh I didn't know." Whatever. I am 25, my wife of 7 years and I have never used condoms or birth control. There is no praying. Just a plaster party.

      January 22, 2011 at 16:14 | Report abuse |
  7. meconium

    Although the person who commented didn't articulate his solution to the problem in a way that's flush with standard English, he makes a valid point, and I advise all of you who decry him for his opinion do your research. Withdrawal, especially when practiced along with urination after every ejaculation, has a perfect use failure rate of around four percent (and this is a very conservative estimate) compared to the condom's perfect use failure rate of two percent. Of course, withdrawal (or birth control, for that matter) doesn't protect against STD's. The biggest problem with withdrawal is the lack of self control those who use it sometimes have. Further complicating things is the fact that some men who "get too lost in the moment" refuse to admit they did.
    http://www.contracept.org/withdrawal.php

    January 8, 2011 at 16:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Nate C

    LOL. We are being trolled, folks.

    January 8, 2011 at 17:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Janna

    Every woman is different. What gives one woman a side effect, will give another woman a different side effect. Birth control often causes unwanted weight gain. Any time you add hormones to your body when it is already on a regular cycle, it will alter your body in some way. Shots and pills have anger and weight gain, patches cause clots, IUD can cause clots, miscarriages, longer periods for six or more months... always something. We take risks to keep from birthing too many kids because people want too much, doctors over charge for everything, and men can't handle the "stress" of bringing home the bread anymore! Teenagers shouldn't be allowed to be mothers in the USA. Go to other countries where cable and tv are far from mind when people work for food and NEEDs instead of wants and parents teach strong morals and marry off their 14yr old girls because those girls are READY to be mothers and wives. Show me a teen girl who can cook well, sew a pair of pants and shirt, and not complain the whole time! Lazy Americans taking medicine and hurting their bodies instead of being responsible and raised properly. It is infuriating. Why? Because I can admit that I am one of those who couldn't cook, sew, or clean properly at 16. My parents worked all the time. My sister taught me to cook some and clean well. So teach your kids how to be adults instead of expecting magic and abstinence beyond puberty.

    January 8, 2011 at 21:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lmew

      @Janna, no girl is ready to be a wife or mother at 14. They get married off because their parents can't afford to keep them.

      January 9, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse |
    • Xilo

      Being forced to grow up quickly is not the same as being prepared for motherhood.

      January 9, 2011 at 16:37 | Report abuse |
    • Momofthree

      At 16, I could do all of those things you have mentioned, but that didn't mean I was ready to be a wife and mother. Having those skills makes you prepared to be on your own when you are mature enough to handle the responsibilities of being on your own. In other countries countries, many girls are simply forced to grow up far too soon, enter into abusive marriages, give birth far too early in life, have a higher risk of dying in child birth and an over all lower life expectancy.

      January 10, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse |
  10. Gabor47

    More often than that not, I am critical of the articles in CNN Health. Not this time. As an ob-gyn physician for over three decades, I recommend my patients pretty much the same. No point to go off the tangent and end up discussing other societal problems, this is the wrong place for that.

    January 9, 2011 at 07:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. sierra m.

    i've taken the Pill for over a decade. on the instructional sheet that comes with them, it states that if you only miss one active pill, you just take it as soon as you remember but that back-up protection is not necessary. however, if you miss 2 active pills in a row, it says to use backup protection for 7 days.

    January 9, 2011 at 09:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Xilo

      Same, except that mine said no extra protection was necessary until you miss the 3rd in a row.

      Moral of the story? Read the handy little papers that are packaged with your medication if you want to know how to use them!

      January 9, 2011 at 16:38 | Report abuse |
    • Kirstyloo

      I guess that it depends on how comfortablt you are with risk.

      January 10, 2011 at 15:52 | Report abuse |
    • JIT

      Yes, my BC said the same thing, basically that you could miss 3 in a row without getting in trouble. And I certainly did plenty of times in the 6 years I was on the pill. Got dangerous toward the end with forgetfulness and busy schedule, so I got Mirena, which seems to be doing alright.

      January 21, 2011 at 10:34 | Report abuse |
  12. Joe in Colorado

    The pill apparently doesn't work against my super sperm. I can get you pregnant just by looking at you.

    January 9, 2011 at 10:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Clinton

      That isn't pregnancy, that's narcissism.

      January 9, 2011 at 13:46 | Report abuse |
    • SilentBoy741

      On the downside, that's sure to be one butt-ugly baby.

      January 10, 2011 at 06:09 | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      And two guys respond to his post... guys who obviously feel "threatened" in some way. Self-confidence, folks...

      January 10, 2011 at 09:32 | Report abuse |
  13. nyker

    only 100 years ago it was commen for say a 15 to 18 yr old girl to be married and have kids soon thereafter. However the maternal mortality rate was much higher, even more so with the more pregnancies as they got older. I think some people are still thinking of another time and place where girls as young as 13 and 14 were expected to take care of the home and bring in a little money towards the household. Again that was 100 years ago. Now 13 yr olds are expected to get good grades, do community service and just be a kid. Not wearing them out by 25! Most women at 40 100 years ago were not only grandmothers, but also looked worn out!

    January 10, 2011 at 09:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. mikey

    Well one person said they should be able to cook and sew py 16 well i knew how by 14 my dad died at age 10 due to war so my mom and grandmother raised me and i learned everything i know from them. and another was talking about girls being married off by 13 well it was because men need wifes to make babies becauase they needed help on the farm and that was around 50 to 60 years ago not just 100 it was a economic move on the family back then

    January 10, 2011 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. mikey

    Pull and pray oh god that brings back a few times i have done it and got lucky not to be a daddy now.

    January 10, 2011 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Debbie

    I often miss pills and have been on BC for 10 yrs.. pull and pray has worked for me hehe

    January 31, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.