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Women can receive a year's supply of contraception at first consultation

Women can safely be prescribed one years’ worth of combined hormonal contraception (CHC) - instead of three months’ worth - at the first consultation, according to new guidelines.

Providing it is judged to be safe, a year’s supply can be given with annual follow-up.

The updated recommendations from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) also said consultations on CHC do not have to take place face-to-face, with online consultations also being acceptable.

Under the new guidelines, women can also avoid monthly bleeding and the accompanying symptoms by running pill packets together and taking fewer, or even no, breaks, as they found no health benefit from the seven-day hormone-free interval.

This is safe and could potentially reduce the risk of pregnancy – as breaks can lead to pills, patches or rings being missed, the guidance said.

FSRH vice president for clinical quality Dr Diana Mansour said: ‘The riskiest time to miss pills is at the beginning and the end of a pill-free interval.

‘The guideline suggests that by taking fewer hormone-free intervals - or shortening them to four days – it is possible that women could reduce the risk of getting pregnant on combined hormonal contraception.’