Is It Safe to Use Birth Control to Skip Your Period? An OB-GYN Explains
Periods are notorious for having bad timing. In adolescence, Aunt Flo would come around during pool parties and sleepovers, and in adulthood, her visits always seem to align with vacations and plans—or spontaneous opportunities—to have sex. (That said, period sex is totally safe, normal, and can be kind of amazing.) If you menstruate, you've probably wished once, twice, or even 12 times a year that you could skip your time of the month. Turns out, there are a few ways to do this, and we're here to explain how it all works.
In addition to preventing pregnancy, regulating periods, and even clearing acne, birth control can also be used to delay, reduce, or even stop your monthly menstrual cycle altogether. We talked with Jessica Shepherd, M.D., OB-GYN and partner with Happy V, to learn more about this method, how safe it is, and what happens to your body when you interfere with menstruation. Keep reading to learn more about how to skip your period with birth control and all the options you have—but make sure to consult a doctor before making any adjustments to your routine.
Is it safe to use birth control to skip your period?
Take a moment to do a little happy dance because, according to Dr. Shepard, the answer is yes, it's totally safe to use birth control to skip your period. One simple way to do this, if you use the birth control pill, is to skip past the placebo week (the week without hormones, which typically induces bleeding) and go straight to starting your next pack of pills. Dr. Shepard explains that this is okay to do because the birth control pill is already designed to suppress ovulation and manipulate your natural cycle. "So the bleed that you have on a birth control pill is not a real period," she explains. "That's why if you skip, you're not doing anything [harmful] to your body because you're never really having a normal cycle anyway."
So, if you have a trip or a date planned and you don't want to deal with your period getting in the way, you're probably okay to postpone it. That said, it's still best to discuss this option with your doctor to make sure you're creating the plan that's right for you—especially because there are multiple ways to skip your period with birth control.
What different ways can you skip your period with birth control?
Whether you're using a birth control pill, a vaginal ring, or a form of long-term birth control, there are multiple ways you can skip your period. Aside from skipping the placebo week to avoid your period for a certain occasion, you can also use a regimen with your pills that allows you to limit the overall number of periods you have in a year. As explained by the Mayo Clinic, some extended-use oral contraceptive pills—like Jolessa, Amethia, Camrese, and Simpesse—are designed so that the user takes active pills for about 12 weeks, followed by one week of inactive or low-dose pills, which reduces the frequency of periods to about once every three months. There are also continuous-use pills, like Amethyst, which will stop you from experiencing a period altogether.
Similar to oral contraceptives, you can also use a vaginal ring, like the NuvaRing, to skip or reduce your monthly periods—but you should talk to your doctor about the best option for you.
If you're looking to stop having your period completely, your doctor may also recommend a form of long-term birth control, like a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) or injectable birth control (a shot you get every three months), both of which can result in minimal or no periods. According to the same Mayo Clinic article, after two years on a hormonal IUD, 30 to 50% of women report having no periods, and after one year of depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) injections, 50 to 75% of women report having no periods.
Are there any side effects of skipping your period?
While it is considered perfectly safe to delay or stop your monthly menstrual cycle, your body may not always follow the plan as you'd hoped. One side effect of skipping the placebo week while on the Pill is called breakthrough bleeding. Breakthrough bleeding is bleeding or spotting that can happen in between periods when you use hormonal birth control to delay or stop your period. However, this typically decreases over time when your body adjusts to the new routine.
Other forms of birth control can have a number of side effects on their own. So all of this is why Dr. Shepard emphasizes the importance of talking to your doctor about your options. "Contraceptive counseling is so important because there can be a medical problem, there can be lifestyle factors or preferences, so I think being able to discuss those features with a healthcare provider will allow you to find the birth control option that is best for you," she says. "Everyone is unique, and choosing birth control should be a really individualized conversation."
Why isn't this talked about more?
Dr. Shepard explains that, because the standard birth control pill is designed to have a placebo week, doctors will often just prescribe it to be used as intended, unless someone specifically mentions wanting to skip their period. However, it's worth noting a long history in which information surrounding menstrual health has remained elusive. Not to mention that policing of the female body, especially when it comes to birth control, is nothing new, so it's not all that surprising that the many options to skip periods and suppress ovulation aren't super out in the open.
Just know this: People who menstruate may have a number of reasons to choose to not, you know, menstruate—whether it's to avoid painful periods, gender dysphoria, or just make life a little easier—and each reason is valid.