Women are now being told they can take the contraceptive pill every day of the month, after scientists say there is no benefit to the seven-day break that is routinely advised.
One of the researchers suggested yesterday that the seven-day break had been introduced by a Catholic inventor of the pill in the 1960s. John Rock, a Catholic gynaecologist, had hoped that it would persuade the Pope and the Catholic Church to approve its use by imitating the natural menstrual cycle.
Now, new guidelines from the Faculty of Sexual And Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) will be issued to NHS GPs and family-planning clinics to clearly state that the traditional 21-day cycle offers women no health benefit. Experts hope the updated advice can help prevent more unwanted pregnancies.
The new FSRH guidelines state that a year’s supply of the contraceptive can be safely prescribed at the first consultation, rather than the current three-month supply. If women wish to continue to take a break between 21-day cycles, the guidance suggests it be reduced to four days.
Many have taken to social media to express their outrage that women haven’t been given accurate medical advice. One Twitter user said it was “insane” and showed how women’s bodies are held hostage to men’s feelings. Another said: “We trusted our doctors, and we were taken advantage of. We were lied to.”
John Guillebaud, who co-authored a study last year debunking the need for the week-long break, told the Daily Telegraph: “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?”
If used correctly, the combined hormonal contraception (CHC) is more than 99% effective. Roughly 9% of users become pregnant in the first year of use. The pill has been linked to a small increase in the risk of having a blood clot or developing breast cancer – but reduces the risk of other cancers.