Go to Content Go to Navigation Go to Navigation Go to Site Search Homepage

If you miss your birth control or start your pack late, your pills may not work as well. The chances of getting pregnant depend on when and how many pills you missed. Once it's been more than one day since the time you should've taken your pill, it is considered missed. What you do if you do miss a pill (or more than one), depends on several factors. See the chart below for more information.

Yes, you can get pregnant if you forget to take your birth control. Depending on the timing, you may want to take emergency contraception (EC). EC can be started up to five days after unprotected sex.

When Do I Start My Pills?

You can start your pills on any day of your cycle. Your doctor or nurse can help you figure out which start date will work for you.

If you are starting your pills after taking emergency contraception:

  • If you took ulipristal acetate EC (also known as Ella), wait at least five days after the unprotected sex to start.
  • If you took levonorgestrel (also known as Plan B) EC, start right away.

Will My Pills Work Right Away?

Not always. If you start your pills:

  • Within 5 days of the start of your period, you do not need backup birth control.
  • After the first 5 days of your period, use backup birth control - like condoms - or don't have sex for 7 days.
  • After taking Ella emergency contraception, use backup birth control or don't have sex for 14 days.
  • After taking Plan B emergency contraception, use backup birth control or don't have sex for 7 days.

How Do I Take My Birth Control Pills?

It's up to you, depending on whether or not you want to have a period. If you want to have a period every month:

  • Swallow one pill every day, as close to the same time as possible. Take all the hormone pills first, finish with the reminder pills, then start a new pack. Taking pills this way will give you a period about every 4 weeks.
  • It's okay to skip your reminder pills. There's no hormone in them, so skipping them won't make your pills less effective.

If you want to choose when you have a period:

  • Take the first 3 weeks of hormone pills. After taking the last pill, skip the reminder pills and start a new pack the next day. Continue taking only the hormone pills to avoid having your period.
  • When you're ready to have a period, and after you've been on the hormone pills at least 3 weeks, take the reminder pills for up to 7 days at a time.

If you don't want to get a period, only take the hormone pills in each pack with no break between packs.

Planned Parenthood Direct

Can't make it to a health center? Get birth control now from your phone with Planned Parenthood Direct! Learn more about our telehealth options.

Learn More

Tags: birth control, birth control pills, how to use birth control pills

Explore more on


This website uses cookies

Planned Parenthood cares about your data privacy. We and our third-party vendors use cookies and other tools to collect, store, monitor, and analyze information about your interaction with our site to improve performance, analyze your use of our sites and assist in our marketing efforts. You may opt out of the use of these cookies and other tools at any time by visiting Cookie Settings. By clicking “Allow All Cookies” you consent to our collection and use of such data, and our Terms of Use. For more information, see our Privacy Notice.

Cookie Settings

Planned Parenthood cares about your data privacy. We and our third-party vendors, use cookies, pixels, and other tracking technologies to collect, store, monitor, and process certain information about you when you access and use our services, read our emails, or otherwise engage with us. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences, or your device. We use that information to make the site work, analyze performance and traffic on our website, to provide a more personalized web experience, and assist in our marketing efforts. We also share information with our social media, advertising, and analytics partners. You can change your default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of required cookies when utilizing our site; this includes necessary cookies that help our site to function (such as remembering your cookie preference settings). For more information, please see our Privacy Notice.



We use online advertising to promote our mission and help constituents find our services. Marketing pixels help us measure the success of our campaigns.



We use qualitative data, including session replay, to learn about your user experience and improve our products and services.



We use web analytics to help us understand user engagement with our website, trends, and overall reach of our products.