Do You Really Need To Take The Pill At The Same Time Every Day? We Investigate…

Contraception must or contraception myth? We put this age-old birth control conundrum to bed.

Woman taking the contraceptive pill

We’ve all been there. You slipped up and your usual rigorous routine of taking your pill at exactly 9.00am every single morning was knocked out of whack by a particularly stressful week at work, a bad hangover or just plain old forgetfulness. Now you’re a day or two late on your period and you’re worried that thanks to that little minor slip up you could be pregnant.

But what’s the deal? We’ve been told forever that taking your pill at the exact same time every day is the best way to prevent pregnancy but does missing our daily dose by an hour or two – or gasp, half a day or more – really increase our chances of getting preggers? Moreover, if so, how much leeway have we got when it comes to timing our everyday dosage?

We wanted answers so we put our questions to Irish Family Planning Association Medical Director Dr Caitriona Henchion to find out.

The first thing to know is that there are two types of contraceptive pill and knowing which one you’re on is the key to figure out how much leeway you have when it comes to popping your pill. Caitriona explains that there is the combined pill which contains both oestrogen and progestogen and the progestogen only pill, which as the name suggests, contains only progestogen.

Now for the bad news. According to Caitriona, gals on the progestogen-only pill only have a three hour window before their risk of pregnancy is increased.

The news is better for girls on a combined pill like Yasminelle, Microlite or Mercilon with Caitriona explaining that your protection against pregnancy is only lessened after taking your pill 12 hours late.

“We can’t quantify by how much the risk is increased as it’s so variable and depends on each woman’s fertility,” says Caitriona, but experts suggest that when taken perfectly the pill is 99% effective, but when taken typically, e.g. When you occasionally miss your daily allotted time, that number drops to 91%.

Thankfully experts agree that missing your every day slot on the very odd occasion isn’t that big of a deal, explaining that your levels of pregnancy-preventing hormones remain high enough to keep you protected, provided you still take your pill within 24 hours.

Speaking to Fusion, Alice Hill, an OBGYN in a private practice in LA clarifies “With combination birth-control pills, taking them at the exact time is not that important. We tell people to take them at the same time just so they form the habit of doing it every day. But they are still protected as long as they take it daily.”

The bottom line? “To maximise its effectiveness the pill should be taken at the same time everyday,” says Caitriona, but if you’ve had one little slip up, where you’ve been a few hours out of your usual timing your hormone levels are likely still high enough for you to remain protected.


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