Most women have been accustomed to taking a pill for 21 consecutive days, or a ring for 21 days or a patch every week for 3 consecutive weeks, followed by a break or ‘hormone-free’ interval, of 7 days. This method was originally designed to mimic the normal cycle of a woman.
We now know a bit more about how combined hormonal contraception works. You can still use your contraception in this traditional way, however, there are other ways:
Here are a few ways in which you can take the Pill, Patch or Ring differently:
- TAILORED USE: You shorten the ‘hormone-free interval’ to 4 days instead of 7.
- EXTENDED USE (OR TRI-CYCLING) Continuous use of ‘active pills’ daily, or your ring monthly, or your patch weekly, for a total of 9 consecutive weeks followed by a break or ‘hormone-free’ interval’ of 4 or 7 days.
- FLEXIBLE EXTENDED USE: Continuous use of ‘active pills’ daily, or your ring monthly, or your patch weekly until you experience bleeding. Once bleeding starts, have a break or a ‘hormone-free’ interval for 4 to 7 days. Remember that after any 4 or 7-day break, you must continue your active pills, patch or ring for a minimum of 21 days.
- Continuous use of ‘active pills’, patch or ring without any break
Benefits of taking your combined hormonal contraception differently:
- Less unwanted pregnancies: Most pregnancies that occur inadvertently while taking the combined pill are due to late restarting after the ‘pill-free interval’ or missing the pill in the first week after re-starting.
- Less symptoms with a shorter ‘hormone-free’ interval or no breaks, with less headaches, mood changes, bloating and period pain.
Myths: Is it not dangerous if I’m not having a regular bleed?
Some women are concerned that if they do not have a regular bleed after 21 days, then blood ‘builds-up’ on the inside of their womb which is ‘unhealthy’ and that somehow, the blood needs to be released from the body. In fact, the truth is that when you are taking your pill, patch or ring continuously, the lining of the womb is not building up in the same way as it would with a normal female cycle!
Remember to ALWAYS notify whoever is prescribing your contraception of any changes in your medical circumstances, for example, changes to medication, changes in family history or any new medical diagnoses.