Many women choose to skip their period with birth control. There are various reasons for doing so. Some women want to avoid painful menstrual cramps. Others do it for the convenience.
Learn what doctors have to say about the safety of skipping your monthly menstruation.
The basics of birth control pills
When you swallow birth control pills, you’re ingesting one or more synthetic hormones. This could be a combination of estrogen and progestin, or just progestin, depending on the type of birth control that you’re taking. These hormones work to prevent pregnancy in three different ways.
First, they work to prevent your ovaries from ovulating, or releasing an egg each month.
They also thicken the cervical mucus, which makes it harder for sperm to reach an egg if one is released. The hormones can thin the uterine lining, too. This means that if an egg does get fertilized, it’ll be difficult for it to attach to the uterine lining and develop.
Birth control pills are over 99 percent effective when used correctly. This means taking the pill at the same time every day. If you miss a day or you’re late taking your pill, the efficacy can decrease. With typical use, the failure rate is about 7 percent.
Several different types of birth control pills are available.
Some are similar to the pill packs that were first made available in 1960. They included 21 days of pills with active hormones and seven placebo or inactive pills. When you take an inactive pill, it allows for bleeding that mimics normal menstruation.
There are also packs that allow for 24 days of active pills and a shorter menstrual-like bleeding period.
Extended-cycle or continuous regimens consist of a couple of months’ worth of active pills. They can either reduce the number of periods you have or eliminate your period entirely.
Safety of skipping your period
There are a number of reasons why you may want to skip your period.
It’s generally safe to do so if you’re on birth control pills. However, it’s best to check with your doctor first. You’ll want to make sure that there’s no medical reason for you to continue with your current menstruation schedule.
Taking birth control pills to reduce or eliminate your period is just as safe as taking them in the conventional way, says Gerardo Bustillo, MD, OB-GYN, at Orange Coast Memorial in Fountain Valley, California.
Menstruation isn’t physiologically necessary. In general, women today experience many more menstrual cycles over their lifetime compared to women of previous generations, says Bustillo. There are a few reasons for that, including the following:
Many women today start menstruating at a younger age.
- Women today have fewer pregnancies on average.
- Women today don’t breastfeed for as long.
- Women today generally reach menopause later in life.
According to Lisa Dabney, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the monthly period that traditional birth control pills allow for may have had more to do with marketing than anything.
“When the birth control pills first came out, they were designed for women to get their periods every four weeks like a ‘natural’ period,” she says. “This interval is really set up by the cycle of the pills and was set up that way so women would more readily accept them.”
Why you may want to skip your period
You may want to consider a birth control option that allows you to shorten or eliminate your monthly period if you have any of the following:
- painful cramping
- heavy menstrual bleeding
- fibroid tumors
- mood swings
- menstrual migraine headaches
- bleeding disorders, such as von Willebrand disease or hemophilia
- Pros and cons of skipping your period
- There are a lot of potential positives for skipping your period, but there are also some downsides.
According to Bustillo, regular ovulation and menstruation could increase your risk for diseases such as endometriosis and ovarian cancer.
Skipping your period may also cut down on the amount spent on feminine hygiene products.
Breakthrough bleeding can randomly occur. However, it generally only happens within the first few months of starting a no-period birth control regimen.
Although breakthrough bleeding generally lessens over time, you’ll want to talk to your doctor if it seems to be getting worse or more frequent after you start a no-period birth control option. If this does happen, make sure you do the following:
Follow all directions from your doctor or pharmacist. Missing a pill makes breakthrough bleeding more likely.
Track any bleeding you experience. This can help you determine if it’s happening more or less often than in previous months.
Look into options that will help you quit smoking if you smoke. Breakthrough bleeding is more common in women who smoke than in women who don’t smoke.
Learn the signs of early pregnancy so that you know when you may need a pregnancy test. Reduced periods can also make it more difficult to tell if you’re pregnant.