How Long Can I Take Birth Control Pills?

It's common to wonder how long you can take birth control pills, assuming that you have to take a break at intervals. But this is a myth, which we'll explain in this article.
How Long Can I Take Birth Control Pills?
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 15 December, 2022

Have you ever asked yourself how long you can take birth control pills?

Birth control pills are a widespread method of contraception. They’re used all over the world by women of different ages, including in the period before menopause.

This method’s very safe and we could say that its main disadvantage is the need to remember to take it. Today, with the electronic agendas of cell phones, for example, this is less of a problem. However, many women prefer another contraceptive option because they suspect that they’ll forget to take them.

There are many myths surrounding birth control pills. Most of them are unfounded, but they slowly spread among users, leading many to believe that they’re true.

Health agencies often carry out campaigns to clarify these false beliefs. The problem’s that, along with this accurate information, social networks and internet forums continue to be misleading.

A common question among women is how long they can take contraceptive pills and whether they need to take a break from time to time. This stems from the fear of the development of adverse effects due to a supposed hormonal overload. As we’ll see, this is just a myth.

What are birth control pills?

Birth control pills are a method of hormonal contraception. That is, they’re based on the use of artificial hormones to regulate the woman’s menstrual cycle and prevent ovulation.

By stopping ovulation, which occurs every month, there’s no possibility of pregnancy. Without ovulation, there’s no circulating egg and, therefore, in the case of sexual intercourse, the sperm doesn’t have anything to fertilize.

To achieve its objective, this method emulates the hormonal changes of normal cycles by incorporating one or two substances in the form of pills. Some contraceptives have two components – estrogen and progestogen – while others have only one – drospirenone, for example.

The number of tablets in the presentation of contraceptive pills also varies. There are packages of 21 pills, others of 24, and others of 28. Among those with 28, there may be 21 of one color and 7 of another, or 24 of one color and 4 of another.

The differences are based on the hormonal doses that laboratories decide to use. In any case, they’re always intended to follow the fluctuations of an average menstrual cycle, which usually lasts 28 days in total, between one menstruation and another.

A woman reading information regarding her birth control pills.
Birth control pills have hormones that emulate the normal menstrual cycle.

Continue reading: 6 Menstrual Irregularities You Shouldn’t Ignore

Do I have to take a break from using birth control pills every so often?

The myth that you should take a break from birth control pills arose based on the hormonal doses they use. At the beginning of the manufacture of this method, the drugs had high concentrations of estrogens and progestogens.

Today, these doses have been reduced by almost 10 times. There are also many more scientific studies that evaluated the safety of the pills to know their long-term effects.

Thanks to the knowledge we’ve gained, we can be sure that there’s no need to take any breaks. There’s no need to stop taking them every so often, and it’s clearly been a widespread myth that’s unsubstantiated.

The birth control pill method prevents ovulation in each cycle but doesn’t affect the availability of eggs. This means that if a woman stops taking the pills to seek pregnancy, she’ll have the same chances as a woman who never took the pills. It’s a method that doesn’t cause infertility.

Purple pills forming the female sign.
We can say that it’s a myth that it’s necessary to take a break from taking birth control pills.

Find out more: What Happens if I Vomit After Taking My Birth Control Pill?

Other myths about hormones in pills

Myths about the adverse effects of birth control pills aren’t limited to the supposed need for a break, nor are they only specific to teenagers. Unfortunately, their dissemination harms family planning programs.

The belief that birth control pills are unsafe is false. With proper use, they can be 99% effective, which is very high. Regarding the decrease in sexual desire that some women fear, the truth is that the information’s confusing.

Something similar happens with the weight gain attributed to it. Gynecologists agree that these are effects that may appear at the beginning of use, but that they disappear after the third cycle of use, more or less. Nor are these signs always present.

A personalized approach to contraception is ideal. Each woman should consult with a gynecologist to choose the combination of hormones best suited to her lifestyle, body constitution, age, and possible comorbidities.

There’s no need to take a break from contraceptive pills

To the question of how long you can take birth control pills, the answer is that there’s no time limit. Science has already confirmed that no breaks are needed and that the hormonal doses of the current presentations are minimal, so there’s no accumulation or alteration of fertility.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Brito Pérez, Cintia, and Ángela Suárez Porta. “Intervenciones eficaces en la adherencia a la medicación contraceptiva: Revisión sistemática.” (2019).
  • Villanueva Egan, Luis Alberto, and Mauricio Pichardo Cuevas. “Adelantos en anticoncepción hormonal.” Ginecologia y Obstetricia de Mexico 75.1 (2007).
  • Amado, J. A., and J. Flórez. “Hormonas sexuales: estrógenos, gestágenos, andrógenos y anticonceptivos hormonales.” Farmacología humana. 4ª Ed. Barcelona: Masson (2003): p887-912.
  • Soubies, M. E., et al. “Adolescentes de hoy…¿ Mitos de ayer?.” Rev Hosp Niños BAires Diciembre 52.239 (2010): 535.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.