Yes, you can safely skip periods on hormonal birth control.
Menstrual periods are often no fun. Aside from the hassle, they can also cause cramps, heavy bleeding, headaches, and mood symptoms. In severe cases, periods can be disabling, disrupting work, school, family life, and self-care. Wouldn’t it be great to just skip them? You actually can.
Some types of birth control can stop periods with the way they are typically used, such as the Shot / DepoProvera (70% of users stop having periods), the Implant / Nexplanon (22%), and the hormonal IUDs such as Mirena and Kyleena (50%). These can be great options.
Other methods of birth control, such as the pill, patch, and ring, can be taken in what is called extended or continuous use. For extended use, the pills, patch, or ring are used for longer than the typical 3 weeks before doing a hormone-free (placebo) week. For example, a pill user can take active hormone tablets for 12 weeks in a row and then do a placebo/hormone-free week, during which they will have a period. That’s just one period every three months! Some pills, such as Seasonale, are marketed and packaged like this, but almost all of these methods can be used this way. For continuous use, there is no hormone-free week at all – the person simply keeps using the hormone-containing pills, patches, or ring with no break. For some, this will result in no period at all. Others may experience some unpredictable bleeding, called “breakthrough bleeding,” which often improves with time or with switching to extended use.
It is medically safe to skip periods with birth control. The uterus is normally sterile (germ-free) and does not need to bleed to stay healthy. Birth control users who skip periods do not have any higher risk of uterine infections than those who do not. Additionally, people on extended or continuous use do not have higher rates of side effects than those who use their birth control the traditional way. In fact, they often have lower rates of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), heavy bleeding and cramping, anemia, headaches, and mood symptoms. People with endometriosis who use birth control to skip periods have improved future fertility compared to those who don’t. Skipping periods can actually be very good for your health!
What IS potentially unhealthy is not having regular periods when you’re NOT on birth control. This usually indicates that something is off balance. Aside from pregnancy or menopause, the most common causes are stress, over-exercise, nutrition problems, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and thyroid problems. Many of these conditions carry a risk of health problems, such as uterine cancer or bone loss, due to the imbalance of hormones that occurs. Therefore, anyone with a lack of regular periods that is NOT due to birth control should meet with a clinician for evaluation and treatment.
Some people don’t want to skip periods. They still want that regular monthly period as reassurance that they’re not pregnant. That’s a valid choice. For others, however, skipping periods can be very safe and beneficial. It’s all about finding what’s right for you. All forms of hormonal birth control have potential side effects and risks, so be sure to discuss these with your clinician.
Recent data shows that many people have no idea that skipping periods can be safe and effective. This is in part due to persistent myths and a lack of familiarity with these options. To help improve the situation, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has just published guidelines for clinicians. See link below!
Periods can be hard. You can skip them. Talk with your clinician about options.
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