Can I take the combined pill without taking a break?

Yes, you can. And changing when you take a break from the pill means you can control when you have a period.

There are 3 ways of safely taking the combined pill. You can choose the schedule that works best for you.

To bleed every month

  1. Take a pill every day for 21 days, until you’ve finished the packet.

  2. Stop for 4 or 7 days. You’ll bleed during the break.

  3. Start the next packet after 4 or 7 days without pills, even if you’re still bleeding.

To bleed a few times a year

  1. Take a pill every day for 9 weeks. This will be 3 pill strips.    

  2. Stop for 4 or 7 days. You’ll bleed during the break.

  3. Start the next packet after 4 or 7 days, even if you’re still bleeding.

To avoid a regular bleed

  1. Take a pill every day, for at least 21 days. Keep taking the pill daily after that. 

  2. Go straight from one packet to the next without a break.

  3. It’s not unusual to have a little bit of irregular bleeding when you take the pill like this.  If the bleeding goes on for more than 4 days, stop taking your pill for 4 days. After this break, keep taking the pill every day.

Whichever way you choose, it’s important that your pill-free break is not longer than 7 days. After 7 days you might ovulate and the pill won’t be effective.

About withdrawal bleeding

Taking the combined pill stops ovulation, so you do not get your period as usual. The bleeding you get when you take a break from the pill can feel similar to a period. But it’s actually called a ‘withdrawal bleed’. A lot of the time it’s lighter and less painful than your usual periods. It’s caused by the lower levels of hormones in your body after missing the pill for a few days.

When the pill was first created, it was designed to copy the monthly menstrual cycle and give familiar, period-like bleeding during the 7 day break. So taking a break and having a withdrawal bleed was often encouraged.

We now know that it’s safe to take the pill without a break, so you can control how often you bleed and choose a contraceptive method that suits you best.


Helen Burkitt, Senior Sexual Health Nurse at SH:24
Written by Helen Burkitt. Senior Sexual Health and Contraception Nurse
Last updated at: 26 September 2022