Whatever your opinion on The Pill, it’s hard to deny that the concept is pretty simple. You take the 21 hormone pills around the same time every day, then the seven placebo pills when it’s time for your period—aaaaand repeat. That’s the only way to do it, right? Well, not necessarily. A growing number of women are choosing to skip the sugar pills and move right back on to the next packet of contraceptive pills, in order to delay their period or skip it altogether. It’s not hard to see why someone would want to do so, especially if they’re going away on a beach vacay. But the question is, is it actually safe to take the pill non-stop? We’ve got answers.
Do you actually need a period when you’re on The Pill?
The first thing to understand is that the ‘period’ you get when you’re on The Pill isn’t actually a ‘real,’ cyclical period but rather, a fake or withdrawal period. The ‘withdrawal’ refers to a drop in hormones from the pill, which causes the uterus lining to shed.
“When The Pill was first introduced over 50 years ago, it was presumed that for women to accept The Pill, they would want to have a regular menstrual bleed,” says. Dr Nitu Bajekal, NHS Consultant ObGyn, Co-Founder of Women for Women’s Health UK. “However, studies have consistently shown that when women are told there are no harmful effects from not having a period while on The Pill, especially with regards to fertility.”
So, nobody on The Pill is actually having a ‘real’ period and that’s perfectly fine. Whether you take the pill as the pack suggested or consecutively, taking The Pill has been found to have no impact on your fertility. “There is no evidence to suggest that long-term fertility is affected by continued use of the pill,” says Dr Seth Rankin of The London Doctors Clinic. “In fact, fertility bounces back very quickly after the 7 pill-free days, hence why unplanned pregnancies often occur after a prolonged pill-free period.”
While taking The Pill non-stop does lead to a build-up of hormones, there’s no research to suggest that there are any harmful side effects or that it will make your bleeds any heavier when you do finally get one.
What are the benefits of taking The Pill non-stop?
The obvious benefits of taking The Pill back-to-back is not having to deal with the inconvenience of withdrawal bleeds, and the impact they can have on your comfort, confidence and sex life. It can also mean avoiding period pain, breakouts and mood swings, which is especially useful for women with conditions like PCOS and endometriosis.
You may be surprised to hear that the benefits of taking The Pill non-stop seem to outweigh the negatives. The only real reported risk of taking the pill consecutively is that you can still get break-through spotting. So, if you’re banking on not getting your withdrawal bleed and you do, it can lead to some rather embarrassing situations. Another concern women may have with taking The Pill non-stop is not being able to tell if they’re pregnant—although the Pill is 99% effective and there have been some reported cases of breakthrough bleeds when pregnant. Lastly, if you’re skipping the placebo pills and moving right on to another pack, you will end up spending slightly more money on The Pill.
While taking The Pill back-to-back is safe for the majority of women, always chat to your GP first before making any major changes to do with your contraception.