I'm 48, is it safe to stop using contraception?


Q. I am 48 years old and my periods are now erratic (they used to be regular) and the blood is brown (not red). Does this mean that I am no longer fertile and can come off the mini-pill?

A. Erratic periods as women are approaching the menopause are normal. But the fact that you are still bleeding, even irregularly, means that you are not yet fully menopausal. The mini-pill that you are taking (also know as the progesterone-only pill or POP) will still be effective in preventing pregnancy. The rule is that you should continue using contraception until you have not had a period or any bleeding for two years (this can be reduced to one year once you are over 50). Although this may seem like a long time, it is the only way of making sure you do not get pregnant. It is not unknown for the ovaries to release a rogue egg months after periods have apparently stopped.


Q. I swim three times a week at my local pool, but I have developed a couple of verrucas on my foot. I tried a Wartner freezing kit, but I found it too painful, and it did not work. Can you suggest something painless that will remove verrucas?

A. Verrucas are warts caused by viruses. The wart embeds itself in the tissue of the foot, and it is driven inwards by pressure from walking. In my experience, the best way of getting rid of them is by treating them regularly, over many weeks, with a strong acid preparation. I would suggest that you try either Verrugon ointment (which contains 50 per cent salicylic acid), or something similar from the chemist that contains at least 25 per cent salicylic acid. You need to apply the acid every day. If the verruca begins to get a bit sore, this shows that the treatment is working. If it gets too sore, stop the treatment for a day or two, but you must carry on until the verruca is well and truly gone. The key to success is persistence until the verruca dies and falls out. Verrucas should not prevent you from going swimming. If you are worried about spreading infection, you can cover them with a plaster. There is no good evidence that people catch verrucas from one another at swimming pools.

Please send your questions and suggestions to A Question of Health, 'The Independent', Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; fax 020-7005 2182 or e-mail health@independent.co.uk. Dr Kavalier regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions.

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