GPs can safely prescribe one years’ worth of combined hormonal contraception (CHC) – instead of three months’ worth – at the first consultation, according to new guidelines.
The updated recommendations from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) also said consultations on CHC do not have to take place face-to-face, with online consultations also being acceptable.
This comes as a recent Public Health England survey found that 80% of women using contraceptive pills received them from the GP, although more than half would prefer to receive them elsewhere, such as in a pharmacy or online.
Under the new guidelines, women can also avoid monthly bleeding and the accompanying symptoms, by running pill packets together and taking fewer, or even no, breaks.
This is safe, and could potentially reduce the risk of pregnancy – as breaks can lead to pills, patches or rings being missed, the guidance said.
FSRH vice president for clinical quality Dr Diana Mansour said: ‘The riskiest time to miss pills is at the beginning and the end of a pill-free interval.
‘The guideline suggests that by taking fewer hormone-free intervals – or shortening them to four days – it is possible that women could reduce the risk of getting pregnant on combined hormonal contraception.’
Women on the combined contraceptive pill have traditionally taken a seven day break at the end of each 21-pill packet.
During this monthly break from pill-taking there is usually a bleed and some women have symptoms like period pain, headache and mood change.
In the same way, women using combined contraceptive patches or rings have taken a seven-day break after every 21 days of use.