The Contraceptive Pill and the Pope

Many of us who get our periods have been conditioned to think that we need to take a seven-day break from the contraceptive pill once a month because that’s just how it works. 

This has recently been discovered to be a false rule, and that medically you don’t need to have that break which kick starts your period. This may have something to do with “The Pope Rule”.

Since the Catholic Church is anti-contraceptive and basically anti-sex unless the purpose is to conceive a child, a Catholic scientist, American obstetrician, and gynaecologist John Rock helped develop the medication and invented the week-long break as he thought it would please the Catholic Church.

The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) has said that there is no health benefit to this break and that it will actually prevent unwanted pregnancies if women keep taking the combined pill without the break. 

Of course, there are other reasons for the seven-day break. It is a chance for a woman’s body to have a break from the number of hormones in the contraceptive pill. There is also a sense of reassurance in taking the break as a woman gets her period.

Today, we have much lower doses of hormones in new contraceptive pills that are much more tolerable for women making it safe to go a whole year without having a period (however it is likely that a woman will experience spotting).

Some women feel nervous if they don’t have a period and will continue to take the seven-day break to make sure they are not pregnant. 

Dr Diana Mansour, vice president for clinical quality at FSRH, told the Telegraph: The guideline suggests that by taking fewer hormone-free intervals – or shortening them to four days – it’s possible that women could reduce the risk of getting pregnant on combined hormonal contraception."

Contraception has been legal in Ireland only from 1980 when the pill was invented in 1960. Before this, doctors told women to go home to their husbands and tell them they were going to live like brother and sister from now on if a woman’s body couldn’t deal with pregnancy anymore and could possibly kill her. 

We have come a long way since this time but there is still work to do in improving contraception, and how available it is for every woman.