The combined oral contraceptive pill (the Pill) is one of the most popular methods of contraception and is also very effective for the management of a number of menstrual and gynaecological disorders.
First available over 50 years ago, synthetic versions of women’s own sex hormones were used to inhibit ovulation. To make the method seem as ‘natural’ as possible, women were instructed to stop the hormones for one week out of every four which resulted in a monthly ‘bleed’.
However, this 7-day break was not rooted in scientific evidence but was based on the belief that women would find a monthly bleed reassuring. But for many women the monthly bleed is an expensive nuisance, often associated with menstrual pain, headache, bloating or swelling, and breast tenderness. Taking the Pill continuously, without a break, has significant advantages including fewer days of bleeding per year and reduction of menstrual pain, headaches, and the risk of pregnancy through Pill omissions.
We hope that manufacturers of the Pill will wake up to the 21st Century and make the Pill available for continuous administration, or with a shortened Pill-free interval for those women who prefer a monthly ‘bleed’, thus allowing women the choice to take the Pill in the way that suits them best.
For further information see my paper published in the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, co-authored with Professor John Guillebaud, available at the following link: https://srh.bmj.com/content/early/2018/06/26/bmjsrh-2017-200036.full