Choosing to take the pill continuously (taking the 21 hormone pills, then going on to the next packet, missing the inactive pills) is an option that means you can choose to have a period - or not.
How do I take my pill continuously?
There are a few different ways you can take your Combined Oral Contraceptive (COC) pill.
Usually, when you take the pill, you take 21 hormone pills, and then 7 inactive non-hormone pills which causes you to get your period.
When you take your pill continuously, you only take the hormone pills, and you skip the inactive pills, meaning you also skip your period. You can continue to take the hormone pills for as long as you like.
Some people like to take the hormone pills for a few months at a time, and then take the inactive pills to get a period, before going back to the hormone pills.
It’s up to you to decide how you want to take your pill.
These videos can help explain how to continuously take your pill.
The Positives of continuous pill taking
- It is the most effective way of taking the pill (the way you are least likely to get pregnant)
- It lets you control your period. You can choose when you have your period, if you decide to have it at all
- It can help if you have long, heavy or painful periods
- Not having a monthly period can help if you suffer from endometriosis or anaemia. Talk to your doctor or nurse about this option.
The negatives of continuous pill taking
- You might experience spotting (a small amount of bleeding when you’re not expecting your period) when you first start taking the pill continuously. This usually goes back to normal over time as your body gets used to the change.
- You might find you begin spotting after a few months, in which case you can take the inactive pills and have a period.
Isn’t it bad for the body not to have a period every month?
No, people often think if they take the pill continuously they need to “take a break” every few months to have a period. In fact, you don’t need to stop the hormone pills for a period unless you want to, or if you start spotting.
There are no side effects to not having a period. Because your hormone levels stay the same, blood does not build up in your uterus if you don’t have a period. The longer you take the pill, the thinner the lining of the uterus becomes.
Getting my period each month lets me know I’m not pregnant – how will I know now?
The monthly period you have while on the pill is not proof that you are not pregnant. The only way you can know whether you are pregnant is to take a pregnancy test.
The period you have on the pill is called “withdrawal bleeding” and is not the same as a regular period. It is caused by not taking the hormone pills, and is not a sign that you’re not pregnant.
When the pill was first invented, the creators thought people would find it more natural to have a period each month and created the inactive pills to give people a monthly bleed.
The Combined Oral Contraceptive pills available in New Zealand contain two hormones: oestrogen and progestogen. Oestrogen is what causes the lining of the uterus to thicken, progestogen stops ovulation happening. When you stop taking the hormone pills (and in particular, the oestrogen), the lining of the uterus starts to shed, meaning you bleed and have your period.
Will taking my pill continuously affect my fertility in future?
No. As soon as you stop taking the pill, your fertility will return to normal. There is no difference to your fertility, whether you take the pill continuously, or normally.
Are there any side effects to taking the pill continuously?
It is safe to take the pill for as many years as you like, either using the regular method, or the continuous method.
The side effects from taking the pill continuously are the same as taking the pill in the regular way. Serious side effects are rare, but important to be aware of.
If you'd like to start taking your pill continuously but you have some questions, you can talk about it with a nurse, either by making an appointment at Family Planning, or having a phone consultation.
Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.