The only reason we're advised not to? The Pope.
Did you know that the only reason why women are advised to take a seven-day break from the contraceptive pill is to please an old Pope?
Yeah. That was news to us too.
The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health (FSRH), a body that proposes guidelines for the NHS in the UK, said yesterday that there is no health benefit to taking a seven-day break while on the combined pill.
The practice was first introduced before the pill became available to (married) women in 1961 – one of the scientists who helped to develop the pill, John Rock, was a devout Catholic, and devised the break to get the Pope to approve of the pill.
His reasoning was that if it mimicked a woman’s natural cycle, it would be more acceptable to the Catholic Church.
Despite these efforts, in 1968 Pope Paul VI declared all forms of contraception to be against church doctrine – at that stage the pill was already available, so the ‘break’ became the norm.
“How could it be that for 60 years we have been taking the pill in a sub-optimal way because of this desire to please the Pope?” family planning and reproductive health expert Professor John Guillebaud told The Independent. How indeed.
The FSRH now says that the contraceptive pill can be taken every day of the month, and that fewer and shorter breaks can reduce the risk of pregnancy:
The guideline suggests that by taking fewer hormone-free intervals – or shortening them to four days – it is possible that women could reduce the risk of getting pregnant on combined hormonal contraception.
Seemingly, we are free to run packs together as we wish, and skip as many periods as we like. According to this Twitter thread, some doctors and nurses have been advising their patients to do this for years – but for many women, it’s brand new information.
Anything else they want to tell us, while they’re at it?