Birth Control Pill Break May Not Be Necessary

According to new advice from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), an arm of the U.K’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, women can safely take the birth control pill without a seven-day break. Their guidelines have now been updated to reflect the fact that there is no known health benefit to having this break. The guidelines also state that there are no medical reasons to not take active birth control pills every day of the month. 

The majority of women choosing this method to prevent pregnancy use the combined oral contraception pill, which contains estrogen and progesterone to stop the user from releasing eggs from her ovaries. Most brands come in packets of 21 active pills and seven placebo pills to trigger a monthly withdrawal period. Many women suffer symptoms, such as headaches, cramps, bleeding, and shifts in mood, caused by the break. 

FSRH says that the monthly withdrawal period has no health benefit for the average woman and that appears to be the general consensus among gynecologists today. In fact, some women may benefit from taking the active pills continuously instead of taking that 7-day break. Continuous use of the active pills has been linked to fewer headaches and less fatigue, as well as reductions in bloating and menstrual pain.

It is important to remember that the pill only works well as a contraceptive if it is taken as recommended. When taken correctly, it is more than 99 percent effective, but that number drops to 91 percent based on “typical use”. Taking the pills every day without interruption could increase the typical use percentage by making it simpler for women to take them without forgetting a pill.

The combined pill is not suitable for everyone. The pill is not recommended for women over 35 who smoke, or women with certain medical conditions. There are some medications that can interfere with the effectiveness of the pill, so users should discuss this with their physician before making the decision to start this type of daily regimen.