Don’t forget to take your pills

Brianne Carlon

Senior English major Stephanie Gentry renews her birth control prescription with pharmacist Jim Hostler at the Deweese Health Center.

Credit: Andrew popik

Noelle Miller, freshman dance performance major, has come up with a sure-fire way to remember to take her birth control pills at the same time every day.

“I set my phone alarm to go off at 11:30 a.m. everyday,” she said. “I could never remember to take (the pill), and I always have my phone with me, so I started using it.”

Miller said she has not missed a pill since she started using this method six months ago.

According to, approximately 1 million of the 2.8 million unplanned pregnancies each year in the United States are caused by misuse, failure or discontinuation of the birth control pill.

Sue Hirt, director of patient services at the education department of Planned Parenthood in Akron, said the constant level of hormones in the pill keeps the body from ovulating.

“If the hormone level drops in the body, the possibility of ovulating and becoming pregnant increases,” she said.

Chief University Physician Raymond Leone said the pill works by suppressing the body’s natural production of the hormones estrogen and progestine and thickens the cervical mucus to keep sperm from joining an egg.

“For someone taking the pill, her body senses the hormone is already there,” he said. “This requires a fairly constant dosing of hormone.”

“If you take it more than 24-hours late, there is a decline in hormone, and the body tries to make it naturally again,” he said. This may lead to accidental ovulation.

Timing is everything

Not everyone has developed such a reliable routine such as Miller’s.

Jocelyn Simms, sophomore fashion design major, said she takes the pill at different times.

“I usually take it before I go to bed around 2 or 3 a.m.,” she said. “Or if I am going out I will take it before I leave at 8 or 9 p.m. But if I am pulling in all-nighter to finish my fashion projects, then I usually don’t remember to take it until the next morning.”

According to www.when timing is, a Web site that sells pill cases with alarm notification, 72 percent of women do not take the pill at the same time everyday. Fifty-eight percent forget to take the pill everyday, and 16 percent have pills left over at the end of the month.

Both Miller and Simms said they were told to take the pill at the same time every day, but neither actually knew why it was important.

According to, a Web site dedicated to birth control choices, the pill is 92 to 99.7 percent effective when taken properly.

To remember to take the pill, associate it with something you do very routinely every day, such as going to bed, Hirt said.

Leone said, “Set your watch alarm or set the pills next to your toothbrush. Most people don’t leave the house without brushing their teeth.”

Tracee Cornforth of Women’s Health said in an online article that Organon, Inc., which produces the oral contraceptive Mircette, has created an electronic reminder card. It is about the size of a credit card, and sounds an alert at the same time each day for three months. This reminds the woman to take the pill. The card is available from health care providers.


What to do if a pill is missed

“Take the pill as soon as you remember, even if you miss an entire day,” Leone said.

“At two days, it is not convenient to take three pills at a time,” he said. “Instead, take two that day, and two the next day, and definitely use a back up birth control method during intercourse for 14 days.”

After two days of missed pills, protection has diminished, Leone said.

After missing three days, it depends on what part of the cycle it is, he said.

“It is important to remember not all women who are on the pill are having sex,” Leone said. “So if someone is just on it for cycle control and pregnancy is not an issue, continue taking the pill. If the period starts, just start a new pack on Sunday.”

“However, if you are worried you may be pregnant, continue taking the pill as scheduled and also take the morning-after pill,” Leone said.

Alternative methods

For those who are not always good at taking the pill at the same time everyday, Leone said another form of birth control should be considered.

Depo-Provera, better known as the shot, is a shot of progestin given every 12 weeks to prevent the release of eggs. According to, it is 97 to 99.7 percent effective.

Jennifer Fitzgerald, sophomore nuclear medicine major at the Salem campus, started getting the shot after she continuously forgot to take the pill.

“I could not remember to take the pill everyday, and my really painful cramps returned. As a last resort, my doctor put me on Depo-Provera, and I only have to get the shot four times a year,” she said.

Ortho-Evra is a thin plastic patch that is placed directly on the skin once a week for three weeks in a row. The patch releases the same hormones as the pill, which prevents the release of eggs. It is 99.7 percent effective, according to

The NuvaRing is a small, flexible ring, which is inserted deep into the vagina for three weeks in a row and is removed for the fourth week. According to, it also stops the release of eggs, and is 99.7 percent effective.

If students are not on birth control, but would like to be, visit the Kent Planned Parenthood Clinic, Hirt said.

“You do not have to have a pelvic exam to get started,” she said. “You can also pick up the morning-after pill there.”

Birth control is also available from the pharmacy at DeWeese Health Center.

“We are here for students,” said Pete Ritchey, chief pharmacist. “If we can offer a better price or convenience, we will do that.”

Contact student life reporter Brianne Carlon at [email protected].