Continuous or extended contraception use is gaining popularity. “The pill” has typically been dispensed for birth control, however it has been found to help with other health risks such as decreasing incidence of cancer of the ovaries and uterus. It has also been helpful in reducing common menstrual complaints such as PMS, bloating, length and amount of bleeding, painful cramps, and ovarian cyst formation. We found that women with endometriosis or menstrual migraines (severe headaches that occur at the start of each period) could take the pill continuously for 3 months before stopping it to have a period. They were extremely happy to have their period 4 times each year.
This method of dosing has become extremely popular. In fact, 50% of women who take the pill this way have no medical problems and only do it for convenience. Scientific studies have been done over the past 15 years to test the safety and measure the satisfaction. There is one pill product that is now even packaged as three-tier rows of pills, taken daily, and the last week is a different color, for the period. Because “the pill” acts to stop ovulation, as when you are pregnant, it’s not necessary to have a period every 4 weeks.
We have found that the products “Nuva Ring” and the “Ortho Evra Patch” can be used in the same way. The Nuva Ring has a slow release of the hormones and lasts for 4 weeks. At the end of the 4 weeks the vaginal ring is removed and the new ring is inserted. This can be done for 3 months and at the end of the 3 months the ring is left out for a week to have her period. The patch lasts for 7 days. Used this way, the patch is changed for 12 weeks then left off for a week for a period. It is safe to use the pill, ring, or patch in this way, just as it is safe for a woman not to have a period when she is pregnant.
The studies show that bleeding rates for women on extended birth control are similar to rates of women taking it the typical 21 days on and 7 days off. As well, the contraceptive protection (pregnancy rates) were similar. If you have questions about this method of taking your pill, ring, or patch please talk with your provider. We want you to have access to new information and for you to have choices in your birth control method to fit your lifestyle.