Combined oral contraceptives (the pill): when to start taking the pill, and missed pill advice

This report was published in 2011. For more recent information, please see the clinical guidelines from the faculty of sexual and reproductive healthcare and the ‘combined pill’ pages on NHS Choices.

01 May 2011

Combined oral contraceptive pills (COCs; also known as 'the pill') belong to a group of medicines called hormonal contraceptives, and are one of the most effective methods of preventing pregnancy.

The product information for COCs contains (amongst other information) advice to women on when to start taking the pill, and what to do if you miss a pill. It is important that this information is consistent between different brands of pill, and between the product information and clinical guidance, as this will help support safer and more effective use of these medicines.

The MHRA and Commission on Human Medicines therefore reviewed all available scientific evidence to provide consistent recommendations on when to start the pill and actions to take if a pill is missed. The recommendations from the review, along with the evidence, are summarised in this public assessment report. Product information for all COCs in the UK is being updated with the new recommended advice.

See also:

MHRA webpage on hormonal contraceptives

This report presents the evidence that was available when the regulatory decision was made, showing a ‘snapshot’ of the clinical landscape at the time. However, any advice in this report remains current unless it is superseded by a more recent report (where relevant, this is indicated).

Page last modified: 26 May 2016