birth control

Taking Birth Control Pills at the Same Time Every Day: What to Know

Most combination birth control pills, which contain estrogen and progesterone, still work as intended even when you take them five hours late. However, if you do this regularly, you’ll lose the protection it gives you, requiring you to use a backup birth control method.

Almost everyone who starts the pill wonders if they need to take the pill at the same time every day. It’s hard to keep a strict schedule amid all their work or school obligations, which is why some feel intimidated by taking birth control at all. The good news is that the pill comes in many variations with various hormone compositions and mechanisms, offering a wide range of options for different bodies and lifestyles. 

Here’s what you need to know about birth controls and taking them at the same time every day:

All About the Combination Pill

If you’re on the combination pill, you can take it within five hours of the time you took it the previous day. For example, if you took your pill at 6 AM and you took it at 10 AM the next day, you’ll still be protected. The pill will work as intended, but only if this is a one-time thing.

It is essential to take the pill at the same time as much as possible, as the consistency will vastly increase its effectiveness. Sticking to a schedule will also help you remember to take it. When you faithfully take it every day at the same time, you’ll have only a 1 percent chance of getting pregnant, which increases when you miss your pill. You can use a birth control reminder app like ours to ensure you never miss a pill and keep you on track.

While some take birth control pills as soon as they receive them, some doctors recommend starting on the last day of your period, usually day 3 to 5 of your bleeding. Other doctors and pill brands recommend beginning on the first day of your period. If you skip the placebo pills, you might even be able to eliminate your period.

All About Progestin-Only Pills

On the other hand, progestin-only pills or POPs are stricter, requiring you to take them exactly at the same time. If you are even three hours late, you’ll need to use a backup method, like a condom. If you’ve had sex in the last three to five days, you may want to consider using emergency contraception to be extra safe.

Sticking to a strict schedule is hard, which is why many birth control doctors don’t recommend this pill. They usually recommend the IUD with hormones, the implant, the shot, or the copper IUD. A doctor may prescribe you a POP if you have a history of heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, or migraines with aura. However, you can circumvent the difficulty of remembering to take your pill by using a birth control pill reminder app.

How the Pill Works

Your protection against pregnancy highly depends on the kind of pill you’re taking and when you start. It’s best to use a backup method for the first seven days you’re on the pill as you wait for it to begin working. 

Given the importance of taking the pill at the same time, things get tricky when you cross time zones. For instance, if you’re flying to Washington from New York and usually take your pill at 9 PM EST, you can still take it at 9 PM PST since you’ll be taking it three hours late. Still, it’s best to adjust this time to take it earlier, as early is always better than late.

However, if you’re traveling further to Europe or Asia, you’ll have to find your destination’s equivalent of 9 PM EST. If suddenly taking it early afternoon or in the morning feels strange, consider making the change gradually back to the time you’re comfortable with.


Remembering to take your birth control pill on time can be tricky. However, by understanding how it works and using a birth control reminder app, you’ll stay on top of your routine and enjoy excellent protection against pregnancy.

MedManage is a medication tracker that you can use to track your different medications, including your birth control pills. It is a cloud-based medication management system allowing everyday tasks, usually done manually or from memory, to be done digitally. Download the app today!

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