Birth control mishaps: What to do when something goes wrong

You drop a pill down the sink. The condom breaks during sex. You run out of your birth control prescription while hiking the Incan Trail. It all happens. Here’s how to deal with it.

  • Dropped or lost a pill. For this one, take the next pill in your pack, then call the provider who issued the prescription. There are many different types of pills that work in different ways and you don’t want to assume anything and increase your risk of getting pregnant. Your provider should be able to tell you what to do over the phone without a need for a visit. Also, be cautious and double up on birth control while you figure this out. (e.g. Use condoms until you know you’re back on track with the pill.)

  • Forgot your pill. We have a whole article that shows you what to do when you forget to take a pill. Just follow the steps.

  • Puked after taking the pill. We’re sorry you puked. If it happened two hours or more after you took the pill, then it should be okay. If it happened within two hours of you taking it, treat it like a forgotten pill.

  • Condom broke, leaked, spilled, or slipped off. This is when emergency contraception is your best friend. Use it as soon as possible and up to five days after it happens. (We also recommend getting tested for STIs after this kind of mishap.)

  • Ran out of your prescription and need a refill while traveling. Here’s how to refill your prescription in the U.S. Here’s how to refill it abroad. Here are some good tips in case you travel and have a medical emergency. And since a little planning can give you a lot of peace of mind, we suggest packing some extra birth control (like condoms) and emergency contraception.

  • IUD comes out. This can happen to 2-10% of women the first year they use an IUD. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Withdrawal wasn’t fast enough. We have to suggest emergency contraception again. And a more reliable method going forward.

  • Got the date wrong, your timing was off, or you had sex during a fertile day while using Fertility Awareness as your method. Once again, if you’ve had a mishap, emergency contraception can help. Here’s our complete response to this question on Bedsider.

  • Removed a menstrual cup or tampon and pulled out your ring. If this happens, rinse the ring in warm water and immediately re-insert it. Here’s some more helpful info about menstrual products and birth control.

Do you have other questions or concerns about birth control mishaps? Our very own Dr. K can help via Twitter. She holds office hours every Tuesday from 7-9 p.m. Use #AskDrK and @Bedsider.


P.S. We answer a lot—and we mean a lot—of birth control questions on Bedsider. Access them 24 hours a day from any computer or mobile device.

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