If you’re on the pill (also known as the oral contraceptive pill, or OCP), you probably know a fair bit about it.
You probably know, for instance, that you need to take your pill around the same time each day.
You’re also likely to know that it can help reduce period pain and hormonal acne.
But did you also know that you can skip the sugar pills each month and take the pill continuously?
You see, “the pill” is made up of two types of pills – active ones and inactive ones.
There are 21 active pills in the pack. These are the ones in the pack that contain the hormones you need to make the pill effective.
Then, there are 7 inactive pills (or sugar pills as they’re also known). They’re just there to help you stay in the routine of taking a pill each day while you have your ‘period’ (we’ll discuss this a bit later).
But you don’t actually need to take those inactive pills. That means, if you don’t want to have your period, you can skip the inactive pills and instead move straight on to the next pill pack.
If you’re worried about doing that, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s a common concern.
But the truth is, you can take the pill, pack after pack, continuously. When you do that, you get to skip your period (woohoo!).
That’s particularly good news if you usually suffer from endometriosis, or heavy or painful periods.
After all, not having a period equals no pain or heavy bleeding!
But isn’t it bad for me not to have a period?
Actually, the bleeding you get during those seven days of inactive pills isn’t really a ‘period’.
A period happens when you’re not on the pill, and your uterus builds up a lining in anticipation of possible pregnancy.
If you don’t get pregnant, that lining then sheds, in the form of your period when you’re not on the pill.
But when you’re on the pill, your hormone levels stay the same and that lining doesn’t build up.
That bleeding you get during those inactive pills is actually a withdrawal bleed, meaning it happens in response to the hormones being taken away.
Are there any downsides?
While it’s not bad for your body to take the pill without a break, you may experience some spotting (a small amount of bleeding) at first. This can be annoying or inconvenient.
Mind you, this usually settles down with time.
Is there anything else I need to know?
While you hopefully now know that it’s really okay to take the pill continuously, you should also keep in mind that the pill doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections.
So you still need to use another form of contraception, such as condoms, if you wish to gain protection from them.
Another thing you should know is that skipping pills, using some medication (like certain antibiotics) and being sick with illnesses like gastro, can all interfere with absorption of the pill, making it less effective.
In any of those situations, The Royal Women’s Hospital advises to continue taking your pill every day, but use some other form of contraception (like condoms) for seven days, too.
(FYI: If those seven days run into the sugar pills, skip the inactive pills that month and start the next pack right away).
Also, while being on the pill can help with certain issues, like period pain and acne, it doesn’t come without risks.
These include a very small risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clot), heart attack or stroke.
People who get migraines, are aged over 35 and smoke, or have been treated for breast cancer shouldn’t use the pill.
If you want more info on the pill, including whether it’s the right contraception for you, chat to your GP.
But if you just wanted to know whether it was okay to take the pill without a break, hopefully we’ve put your mind at ease.