Overdosing on oral contraceptives, or taking more than one pill per day, usually isn’t life-threatening. You most likely won’t experience any major side effects.
It’s not at all uncommon to accidentally double up on birth control pills. Since you need to take your pill at the same time every day, aligning your dose with your daily routine can help you remember to take it.
But if something happens to disrupt your routine, you might forget your pill — or end up taking an extra one.
For example, maybe you take your pill every morning after showering. One morning, your sister calls early with some big news, putting your shower on hold. Noticing the time, you take a pill while talking. But later, your habit takes over, and you absentmindedly take another pill after your shower.
There’s no need to be concerned or seek medical attention. Just keep taking your pill at the same time every day without skipping a dose. You’ll finish the pack one day earlier, but you’ll still be protected against pregnancy.
If you intentionally took more than one extra pill, or several pills, read on for guidance on the best next steps.
Maybe you intentionally took several pills:
- because you’re having thoughts of suicide
- as a substitute for emergency contraception
- to end a pregnancy
Birth control pills have a very low toxicity. They contain estrogen and progestin, or progestin only, which are hormones known to be safe for humans.
While high levels of these hormones can have side effects over time, you likely won’t experience any lingering harm after one very large dose.
Evidence suggests you probably won’t experience severe immediate side effects, even if you took an entire pack of birth control pills.
Researchers noted that most of them left the hospital within just a day, and none became severely ill. The most common side effects included:
- severe head pain
If you’re in the United States and are concerned for yourself or a loved one, call Poison Control for further guidance.
You can reach the Poison Control helpline 24/7 by calling 800-222-1222.
You should call 911 or seek emergency medical attention if you:
- experience sudden or severe pain
- lose consciousness
- have difficulty breathing
- experience facial swelling, hives, or other signs of an allergic reaction
When you go to the emergency room (ER), bring the pill packet — along with any ingredients, instructions, or other information that came with your prescription.
At the hospital, your care team may:
- ask questions about the medication you took
- check your pulse, blood pressure, and other vital signs
- ask for samples of urine, blood, or both
- monitor symptoms you experience, including nausea or vomiting
A doctor may treat some cases of overdose with activated charcoal, which can help keep your body from absorbing the medication. You most likely won’t need activated charcoal for an overdose of birth control pills.
The professionals might also ask questions about your mental well-being and refer you to a mental health professional on staff.
If you intentionally took birth control pills, or any other medication, to attempt suicide, be honest about how you feel, so you can get the right support. (You’ll find more in-depth information on getting mental health support below.)
If you no longer feel in crisis, tell them that, too.
If you don’t want to visit the ER, you may still want to connect with a primary care physician or other healthcare professional, especially if you experience worrisome symptoms, such as heavy or frequent vomiting or an unusual rash.
While headache, nausea, and vomiting usually develop soon after taking the pills, you might notice other symptoms over the next few days, such as:
If you experience bleeding, it may be heavy. It’s always a good idea to seek medical care for heavy bleeding if you:
- fill one tampon or soak through one pad in
less than 2 hours, a few hours in a row (that’s over 5 milliliters if you use a menstrual cup)
- see blood clots larger than a quarter
- feel dizzy or weak
- have chest pain or trouble breathing
If you’d like some medical advice but don’t have a primary care physician, check in with the clinician who prescribed your birth control pills.
It can feel overwhelming and frightening to consider telling someone else that you’re thinking about suicide. But, if you’re in crisis, prompt support can make a big difference.
Start by reaching out to a trusted friend or family member:
- Let them know you don’t want to be alone and need support. They can keep you company and take you to see a doctor, if necessary.
- Tell them if you’ve taken any medications, or if you have any medications or potential weapons in the house.
It’s possible that thoughts of suicide might ease after you spend time with a loved one who listens with compassion and offers emotional support.
If the crisis passes, you might not need to visit the ER or seek other psychiatric care. But it’s best to check in with a therapist or other mental health professional anyway:
- If you don’t currently have a therapist, consider making an appointment to see one as soon as possible.
- If searching for a therapist feels exhausting or stressful, consider asking a loved one for help.
Talking about suicide with people in your life can be incredibly difficult, but you can still get support by calling or texting a crisis helpline.
Here are those numbers again:
- Reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
- Reach the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
Trained counselors can help you find a sense of calm when you’re in crisis by:
- listening to what’s on your mind without judging or offering advice
- helping you explore options to stay safe
- helping you find positive coping techniques
Even if you aren’t having thoughts of suicide right now, crisis counselors can offer support for feelings of overwhelm, sadness, and other emotional distress.
Maybe you heard that you can use birth control pills as emergency contraception if you don’t have access to emergency contraception, like Plan B or ella.
Still, it’s considered less effective than other types of emergency contraception. You’re also more likely to experience nausea or vomiting after taking the pills.
As with other types of emergency contraception, you need to take the pills within 72 hours of having sex. If you’ve already taken several birth control pills in the hopes of preventing pregnancy, you need to take a second dose after 12 hours.
It may help to take an anti-emetic (anti-nausea medication) if you’re worried about feeling sick or throwing up.
How many pills should you take per dose? That depends on your specific pill brand.
It’s always a good idea to check in with a healthcare professional before trying this method. They can:
- help you monitor side effects
- let you know what to do if you vomit shortly after taking a dose
- offer information on your options if this method doesn’t work, or if more than 72 hours passed since you had sex
Overdosing on birth control pills might not always prevent ovulation, and it won’t end a pregnancy.
If you think you might be pregnant, take a pregnancy test. You can do this with an at-home test or by visiting a primary care physician or clinic, like Planned Parenthood.
You can get a medication abortion, or abortion with pills, in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
For the duration of the pandemic, you can use telemedicine services to get abortion pills by mail in certain states:
If you accidentally took two birth control pills, there’s no need for concern. Even if you’ve taken several birth control pills, you probably won’t experience any serious side effects.
Still, it’s always wise to reach out to a healthcare professional if you’re concerned, or if you experience severe nausea, vomiting, or bleeding.
If you’re having thoughts of suicide or experiencing other mental health symptoms, a therapist or other mental health professional can offer compassionate guidance and help you explore options for support.
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.