Since the dawn of time (okay, since we started taking the combined contraceptive pill), we’ve had blind trust in that little packet of contraceptive pills when it comes to what a strict cycle schedule looks like: Dutifully take one hormonal pill every single day for 21 days then dutifully take a placebo pill for the next seven before starting the process all over again.
During the placebo pill (or ‘sugar pill’) week, your body experiences a drop in hormones, usually causing a “withdrawal bleed” which is essentially mimicking your period. You’re not ovulating so it’s kind of like a fake period.
But turns out, we don’t actually need to take these sugar pills or have said fake period at all. In fact, we could just keep taking the contraceptive pill every single day of the month without having the ‘seven-day break’.
New guidelines from the Faculty of Sexual And Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) state there are no health benefits to having 21-day cycles on the combined pill, despite the fact they’re the norm and the packaging reflects we should. (Most combined pills are only packaged to have 21 hormonal pills per pack.)
And, now for the real kicker aka the reason why sugar pills were even a thing in the first place…
No, it’s not because our bodies ‘need a break’.
They were invented to persuade the Pope to approve the Pill.
John Rock, the Catholic gynaecologist who was involved with the development of the Pill back in the ’50s, thought the Catholic Church would be much more likely to approve the combined contraceptive pill if it mimicked the natural menstrual cycle.
Professor John Guillebaud, who is vocal about debunking the need for a week-long break, brought it to the public’s attention in a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph.
Professor Guillebaud asked: “How could it be that for 60 years, we have been taking the Pill in a sub-optimal way because of this desire to please the Pope?”
“Rock thought if it did imitate the natural cycle then the Pope would accept it. When his campaign to get the Pill accepted by the Pope failed, he just simply stopped being a Catholic, having been a committed one for his entire life.”
Many women already know there’s no purpose to sugar pills . But, for most of us (author included!), taking sugar pills is the norm.