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Ask the doctor: Should I take a break from the pill?

Wondering if your body needs a break from the pill? We ask a GP about the pros and cons

By Lauren Taylor

Doctor Clare Morrison, GP at online doctor and pharmacy Med Express, says: "Some women like to come off the pill from time to time, to 'give their bodies a break'. This used to be recommended by doctors, but there isn't really any need for this.

If you’re a non-smoker, it’s absolutely fine to take the pill for as long as you need it, provided it isn’t causing any problems, and your weight, age and blood pressure aren’t posing an unacceptable risk.

“In fact ‘having a break’ from the pill is a major cause of unplanned pregnancies in young women, so you do need to be careful. If you want to come off the pill, but don’t want to get pregnant, do ensure you use alternative contraception straight away. You could become fertile again in as little as a week or two after your last pill. Either use condoms, or see your GP or family planning clinic, who will be able to advise you about other methods of contraception.

“If you want to try for a baby, do remember it can sometimes take several months for periods to resume. This is called post-pill amenorrhoea. On the other hand, if you suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome, the first few months after stopping the pill can be the best opportunity to conceive, as there may be a temporary relief from the condition.

“If you come off the pill, your periods, having been relatively manageable, may become heavy, painful and irregular again, if they were like that in the past. You may need to take anti-inflammatories or paracetamol.

“Many women go through phases in their life where they are on the pill for a few years and then let their natural hormones take over for a while. This shouldn’t be a problem, provided that effective contraception is used when needed.

“There aren’t any major reasons why you shouldn’t come on and off the pill as you wish.

“Being on the pill is a bit like being pregnant, insofar as there is a break from monthly ovulation, so it could be argued this mimics what would happen naturally.”

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