Growing up, you might have learned that women need to get their period every 28 days or so. This is often considered natural and necessary while skipping your period is thought to be bad for your fertility.
These beliefs have been shaken—modern-day hormonal birth control has now made it possible to safely delay your period.
Can you safely skip your period with birth control?
Estrogen and progestin, the two hormones that are "combined" in combination birth control, pack a powerful punch. Women can use combined hormonal contraceptives (CHCs) to skip their period.
Editor's note: You can use combined birth control pills to skip your period, but not the mini-pill, which only has progestin (also called a progestin-only pill).
Skipping your period using combination hormonal birth control, such as the pill, ring, or patch as prescribed by your healthcare provider is safe and does not cause any harm or long-term effects. However, it's a good idea to talk to your health care provider before making any changes.
Here's the general way to skip your period using the pill: you'd simply keep taking the active pills continuously and discard the placebo pills. The number of placebo pills is different from brand to brand.
How birth control actually causes "withdrawal" periods
When you use combination hormonal birth control, meaning some combination of estrogen or progestin, ovulation doesn't usually occur.
What is a withdrawal period
Instead, you experience a withdrawal period or bleed while on birth control. This is very similar to a period, but it's typically a bit shorter and lighter because the hormones used in birth control could stop your uterine lining from building up to the same level.
You can skip the withdrawal period
Withdrawal bleeding could still cause discomfort or inconvenience, however, and some may choose to skip it. Whether it's avoiding the physical experience of painful periods, menstrual migraines, or simply avoiding it for an event or vacation. Whatever the reason, know there are ways to skip your withdrawal period altogether.
You also don't need to get a withdrawal period to know if you're pregnant. If you take birth control as directed, there is a low risk of pregnancy, with typical use being around 9% and perfect use less than 1%.
What are the potential side effects of skipping your period?
The most common side effect of skipping your period using combination birth control is breakthrough bleeding.
Breakthrough bleeding is spotting that occurs in between your period and is normal for the first 1 to 3 months. For others, breakthrough bleeding might occur for up to a year. Although breakthrough bleeding is expected, this does not necessarily mean your next period will be heavier, or you will be "backed up."
Are there other side effects?
There are no studies that show skipping your period using birth control means a heavier flow or that you might feel bloated. Bloating may be a side effect of birth control, not missing your period. If you have more questions or concerns, ask your health care provider or OBGYN.
How to skip your period with birth control
How you skip your period using combination birth control will depend on your birth control type.
Note: Hormonal contraceptives that don't allow you to skip typically reduce your chances of getting a period overall.
Skipping your period with the pill
If you are using the combined pill, aka oral contraceptives you will skip the placebo pills, which you would normally take for your inactive days.
When are the placebo pills?
For 21-day packs (21 active pills, 7 placebo pills), this is the last 7 days. For 24-day (24 active pills, 4 placebo pills) packs, this is the last 4 days.
You'll then start your next pack right away. If you decide to skip your period and use your next pill pack, you may experience breakthrough bleeding, which is normal.
What is continuous birth control?
If you are regularly looking to skip your period, you may want to get medical advice on extended-cycle birth control (also known as continuous use birth control) meaning you get a period every 3 months. Popular brands include Seasonale™, Seasonique™, and Jolessa™.
If you are using a vaginal ring as your birth control method, take a look at whether you are using NuvaRing or Annovera.
With NuvaRing you can switch the old ring out and replace it with a new one. Remember to change your ring on the same day of the week every time.
Changing your Annorvera ring works similarly, but ask your health care provider about skipping periods, as it's possible, but not explicitly outlined by Annovera.
Birth control patch
With the patch, skipping your period is simple. You will simply skip the patch-free week and put a new one on right away. This means you'll always wear the patch.
As mentioned above, if you are on the mini-pill, aka progestin-only, pill it is not possible to skip your period. However only about 1 out of every 2 women taking the mini-pill ovulate and menstrual bleeding could reduce or even stop with the mini-pill.
Birth control shot/Depo-provera
Although you cannot skip your period with the birth control shot, every 1 out of 2 women that use birth control shots don't have their period.
Intrauterine Device (IUD)
Unfortunately you can't control your period with a hormonal IUD. However, most women get fewer periods with changes to their menstrual cycle. According to the manufacturers of Mirena, a popular hormonal IUD, about 2 out of 10 women using Mirena stop having their periods after a year .
How long is too long to skip a period?
However, this is a personal choice and you should consult your healthcare provider. If you would like to skip your period , talk with your OBGYN or health care provider about what birth control might be best for you.
What are the benefits of skipping a period?
Aside from the convenience of skipping periods, you may choose to do so for physical health reasons. Many women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS), severe cramps, or other painful period symptoms.
In one study, over 48 physical or mental scenarios were outlined in which skipping a period might be beneficial. Here are a couple of specific instances of benefits of skipping your period:
Menstrual migraines: Skipping your period using the pill has been shown to reduce migraine attacks.
Sleep issues: There are some trends that suggest women taking birth control have a longer duration of sleep than those that have a natural menstrual cycle and are on their period.
Endometriosis: Endometriosis, often associated with painful cramps and pelvic pain symptoms, seems to be relieved partially with extended use of birth control.
How to safely skip your period
In general, you can safely skip your period using combination birth control pills as prescribed by your doctor. If you're interested in skipping your period and are not on birth control, talk to your health care provider about your best options.
If you are on a different type of birth control, ask your healthcare provider about your period and your specific birth control to determine what makes the most sense for you.
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