Changing When You Take Your Pill Is Possible, But Never Do It On A Whim

by Lauren Sharkey
Studio KIWI/Stocksy

Remembering to take the pill every day is hard enough, but remembering to take it at a specific time is a full-on challenge. The medical line stating "you must take your pill at the same time every day" can wrongly convince people that they are unable to ever alter their contraceptive schedule. But there are ways to change the time you take your pill, so here's what you need to know.

Before committing to a new time of day, it's vital that you check what kind of pill you're on. The combined pill — a category that includes Microgynon, Yasmin, Cilest, and more — allows you and your timekeeping to be a little more relaxed. But changing the time you take a progestogen-only pill (also known as the mini pill) can increase your chance of pregnancy if you're not careful.

As the NHS states, the combined pill uses fake versions of female hormones oestrogen and progesterone to prevent ovulation. This means that you will remain protected as you long as you take the pill every 24 hours, obstetrician-gynaecologist Alice Hill told Splinter.

The easiest way to change your combined pill-taking schedule is to wait until you've finished a pack. (This only applies if you have a pill-free break every month.) As soon as you start your next pack, you can take your pill at any time you choose. If you don't have a break, just make sure your new time isn't more than 24 hours after the old one. If it is, it's fine to take two pills in one day, states birth control site Bedsider. The key is not to miss a dose.

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Things get a little more complicated if you're on the mini pill. The 24-hour window that exists with the combined pill closes to just three hours for Micronor, Norgeston, or Noriday, states the NHS. But if your mini pill contains desogestrel, it increases to 12 hours. "The closer to on time, the better," obstetrician-gynaecologist Rachel Zigler advised Romper.

This is because the mini pill works in a completely different way. Instead of preventing an egg from being released, it protects you from pregnancy by thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the uterine lining, states Lloyds Pharmacy.

So how are you supposed to go from taking your pill at night to taking it in the morning if you only have three hours? Well, your only option is to use a secondary form of contraception such as a condom. The NHS states that this should only need to be used for 48 hours after a time change.

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It's a sensible idea to adopt this strategy when swapping a combined pill time too — particularly if you're at risk of missing a dose. In these circumstances, a back-up contraceptive should be used for seven days.

Speaking to a doctor or nurse about your proposed changes may also be a smart move. They can give you personalised advice and, if you're finding taking a daily pill difficult, can offer you alternative contraceptive methods.

Altering your pill-taking to fit your schedule isn't an impossible task. But it's advisable to err on the side of caution, especially if you're going for a later slot than usual.