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August 10, 2018

Skipping My Period on the Pill: Is It Safe?

Short answer: Yes!

But you probably want the long answer too, so here it is.

Image by Dana Davenport

Why might you want to skip your period?

Symptom Control. Some women who experience painful symptoms such as cramps, migraines, or extremely heavy/prolonged bleeding skip their period as a method for managing these symptoms. Women with conditions that are worsened by menstruation including endometriosis and anemia find relief this way as well [1].

Convenience. Let’s face it, your period always falls on the day of your big vacay, pool day, or some occasion where you have to wear white. It’s so frustrating. We promise, you’re not overreacting. Skipping your period can be a helpful lifestyle choice.

Is this unnatural? Is it really safe?

Yes, it is safe. Contrary to popular belief, menstruation is actually not a physiological necessity. Think about it:

  • Bleeding in between pill packs is not the same as getting a period while not on the pill. In our previous blog post, “The Secret Life of Placebo Pills,” we talked about the differences between the two. The “period” you get while on the placebos is derived from a decrease in the hormones in your pills, aka a “withdrawal bleed.” If you have ever forgotten to take your pill for ~2 days and started spotting, it’s the same phenomenon. This type of bleeding is usually much lighter than a period [6].
  • Women with an IUD, designed for 3–10 years of continuous use, don’t have “periods” or “withdrawal bleeding,” but they may experience light breakthrough bleeding. This commonly applies to women who are breastfeeding too.
  • One research study found that those taking active birth control pills continuously reported less menstrual symptoms including headaches, genital irritation, tiredness, bloating, and menstrual pain [3].

How do I get started skipping my period?

We assure you, with a few simple steps you will be able to wear that cute new white dress any day of the month.

Step one: Make sure that you’re taking a monophasic pill. This means that each of your active pills have the same mix of hormones. This is as opposed to a multiphasic pill, that has a combination of hormones that change from week to week. It is possible to use multiphasic pills to skip your period, but it is not recommended as multiphasic pills cause more spotting when taken continuously [2]. If you’re unsure about whether your birth control is monophasic, consult your physician.

Step two: Skip the all of the inactive pills (usually differently colored and at the bottom of the pack), and start your new pack of pills right away.

That’s it. It’s really that easy.

What if I decide I don’t want to keep skipping my period?

Let’s say you’ve already taken at least 3 weeks of active pills (first 3 rows of pack) and you really want to have regular monthly bleeding again. Not to fear, you can pause for a period any time you want [2]. Just stop taking the active pills for 4–7 days (depending on how many placebo pills your pill pack has). Tip: it may help you stay on track to “plan for a bleed” when it is your placebo time (last row in the pack). Then, start taking the active pills again after the 4–7 days.

This sounds great! Is it really as easy as it seems? What are the benefits?

Yes, it is easy as it seems. However, before you make any long-term changes you should check in with your doctor about skipping your period for an extended period of time. They will be able to advise you on if this is a good idea for you and provide recommendations such as adjusting the type of pill you are taking.

A recent study even showed that using oral contraception to skip periods has been a common practice among female astronauts for years [7]. We don’t blame them. Having a period in space sounds like a less-than-ideal adventure. Military studies have shown that high proportions of female personnel desire amenorrhea (absence of period) during deployment; better education about skipping periods has been made available during military recruitment to help with independent decision-making [7]. Skipping periods has not only become a popular decision for women in these fields, but everywhere.

Skipping your period can help reduce menstrual pain, headaches, and the possible need for emergency contraception. In addition, women with anemia may benefit due to iron deficiencies that can happen during heavy menstrual bleeding [8].

Another added bonus: you save money on pads and tampons. While it’s still a good idea to keep a box of pantyliners around in case of spotting, you won’t need the usual amount of period products. Better for the environment, and your wallet too.

Any downsides to skipping your period?

You may experience an increase in breakthrough bleeding during the first couple months as your body adjusts over time. This means that you could randomly have some bleeding but it generally only happens within the first few months of starting a no-period birth control regimen [4].

You should also be aware that skipping or delaying your period may make it harder to tell if you are pregnant, so definitely stay on the lookout for common pregnancy symptoms such as nausea, morning sickness, sensitive or sore nipples, and fatigue [1]. Some women on the pill find that getting their period each month is a confirmation that they aren’t pregnant, but remember that many women experience light bleeding even while pregnant.

This is not to say every woman has to skip their period on the pill. Some women prefer to keep their monthly bleeding as a sign that their body is functioning normally [5]. However, being able to skip periods should be an option to all women who want it. It’s your body and your choice. We recommend doing your own research on the subject as well by checking out some of the resources below.

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Sources:

  1. Birth control pills: How to skip your monthly period
  2. A quick guide to skipping periods with birth control
  3. Continuous or extended cycle vs. cyclic use of combined hormonal contraceptives for contraception
  4. How to Skip Your Period with Birth Control
  5. Using Birth Control to Regulate or Skip Your Period - NWHN
  6. Overview of Withdrawal Bleeding From Birth Control
  7. Medically induced amenorrhea in female astronauts
  8. Birth control pill FAQ: Benefits, risks and choices