How To Change Your Combined Birth Control Pill To Later In The Day

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses changing the time you take your combined hormone birth control pill and whether or not back-up/emergency contraception is needed.

Jul 30, 2018

Confused! asked

I have just finished my 7 day pill free period and wanted to change the time I take my pill. (Im on the combined pill) I had been taking it at 11am previously but last night I took it at 9pm. I also had sex, am I protected or should I take the morning after pill?


The safest and most effective way to change the time you take your combined hormone birth control pill (meaning one that contains both an estrogen and a progestin) to later in the day is to:

  • Change the time you take your pill once you start a new pack.
  • Once you are finished with your pill free period, simply start the new pack at your new time.
  • You should not have any spotting/break-through bleeding and there should be no decrease in effectiveness. If you do have some spotting, it should be minimal and go away in a short period of time.

In most cases, with combined hormone pills, your protection against pregnancy will not be greatly affected by changing your usual administration time to later in the day when you start a new pack, as long as more than 24 hours have not elapsed from the time you were originally scheduled to take it. You do not need to use back-up contraception (e.g. condoms) if you are changing the time you take your pill when starting on a new pack.

In fact, the guidelines from the CDC state that missing your usual dose by 24 hours won't increase your chances of becoming pregnant. In this case, you would simply be moving the time back and less than 24 hours will have elapsed.

In your situation, having had sex after changing your birth control pill administration time, you should still be protected from pregnancy, provided you have not missed any doses and have been taking your pill consistently. There should no need for emergency contraception (e.g. Plan B).

It should be noted that the above recommendations change if you are taking a "progestin only pill". With those pills, there is much less leeway and taking those more than 3 hours after your usual administration time can decrease effectiveness.

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