What Happens When You Take Two Birth Control Pills By Accident?

Birth control is, understandably, an intensely personal topic. Finding the right method can take time. Oral contraceptives in particular can take some getting used to, since they have to be taken on a strict schedule. And while some contraceptive pill packs come with prelabeled days, others require the patient to keep track of the dosage schedule.

This is fairly easy to do in theory. But when you add in the stress of everyday life, distracting events, and the exhaustion most adults chronically deal with, it's clear why someone might not remember whether or not they've taken their pill on a given day. And as with many medications, this memory lapse can become a serious issue. As the United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS) says, it's vital that people on birth control not miss a day. This can decrease the contraceptive's efficacy and interrupt treatment of other conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis that are addressed through birth control. By that logic, the ideal solution if you're unsure is to take the next pill. But what happens if that pill is your second pill of the day?

Dosage is key

Doubling your birth control dose in a day might seem like a horrible accident. But as the National Health Service assures people, it's actually not an issue. A single extra pill won't likely cause any side effects other than a little nausea, which Healthline suggests treating with ginger ale or candied ginger. The NHS does warn that taking several pills at once can lead to more aggressive nausea, vomiting, and vaginal bleeding. If the symptoms aren't severe, however, they can usually be treated at home until they pass.

Taking several birth control pills at once by accident isn't very likely. But it does sometimes happen on purpose, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Intentionally taking multiple birth control pills at a time is referred to as the Yuzpe method, which is sometimes used as an alternative to the morning after or Plan B pill. The method is considered 75% effective at preventing pregnancy so long as fertilization has not occurred, but it is a tricky practice. The birth control doses must be taken at precise times, and even then the method is less reliable than an over-the-counter Plan B if one is available.

Accidentally taking two birth control pills on the same day isn't going to do much. But if you or someone you know intends to try the Yuzpe method, it is best to contact a medical professional and ask for guidance. This will ensure a safer dosage calculated using the specific contraceptive being used, and will maximize the method's efficacy.