Do women need breaks from contraception?
Many women have heard that it's good to have a break from from hormonal contraception.
Women might want to check that their periods are still normal, or to give their bodies a rest.
Is a break good for health?
It does no harm to be on contraception for many years.
There is no medical need to have a break from hormones, and it's safe to be on hormonal contraception as long as a woman wants to (unless her health changes).
Even if hormonal contraception changes the pattern of periods, fertility will come back once contraception is stopped.
Hormonal contraception won't affect future fertility, but it’s important to know that it’s less easy to get pregnant as women get older -it becomes harder to get pregnant over 35.
Taking a break from contraception can mean pregnancy by accident – a study showed that a quarter (1 in 4) of young women who took a break of 6 months had unplanned pregnancies.
Some women will be advised to come off methods which contain oestrogen if they have particular problems (high blood pressure, migraines with a warning, or heavy body weight).
Contraception is incredibly safe for the vast majority of women, and a break is not necessary.
Women on the combined pill, patches or the vaginal ring already have a week off every month (although all of these methods can be safely used continuously without breaks).
If a woman wants a break from hormones but still doesn't want to get pregnant, there are some alternatives which don't have hormones
Which choices have no hormones?
- The most effective non-hormonal method is the copper coil
- The diaphragm is another method without hormones, and it’s fairly easy to learn how to use it
- Condoms are always an option
- Fertility Awareness works quite well if a woman is committed to working out how to do it reliably
- The withdrawal method suits some people, especially if an unplanned pregnancy would be okay