New regimens with combined oral contraceptive pills--moving away from traditional 21/7 cycles

Eur J Contracept Reprod Health Care. 2010 Dec;15 Suppl 2:S32-41. doi: 10.3109/13625187.2010.529969.


The practice of extending combined oral contraceptive use (COC) and eliminating or reducing the hormone free interval has been in use for many years. More recently a range of products with new dosing options has been developed and marketed. Women and physicians in developed countries are comfortable with and many prefer the use of extended COC regimens which provide an option to eliminate or reduce the frequency of regular withdrawal bleeding. The extension of active pill taking and the reduction or elimination of the hormone-free interval have been shown to be beneficial for women who experience menstrual cycle-related problems such as heavy bleeding or dysmenorrhoea. The hormone-free interval of less than seven days has additional benefits in managing hormone withdrawal symptoms and efficacy may be improved in situations where pills are inadvertently missed or in women who are perceived as 'poor' pill takers. This paper provides a descriptive review highlighting the development of new dosing options that alter the traditional 21/7 COC regimen. The rationale for and the acceptability of COCs developed with alternative dosing regimens is examined.

MeSH terms

  • Contraceptives, Oral, Combined / administration & dosage*
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / administration & dosage
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Estrogens / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menstrual Cycle / drug effects*
  • Menstruation / drug effects
  • Progestins / administration & dosage
  • Uterine Hemorrhage / prevention & control


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Combined
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal
  • Estrogens
  • Progestins