Is Skipping Periods on Birth Control Safe?

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For many women, getting a period is an unpleasant experience each month. Whether it be painful menstrual cramps, awful PMS symptoms, or the inconvenience of bleeding during a wedding or spring break trip, many women would prefer to delay it as much as possible. A question we often get here at BINTO is: Can I purposely skip my period while on birth control? We’re going the ins and outs of this common question.

Oral Contraceptives 101

Hormonal birth control pill packs usually contain 28 pills, 4-7 of which are either sugar or iron placebo pills, intended to mimic the natural menstrual cycle. The active pills contain hormones that stop ovulation and thicken mucus around the cervix, making the sperms’ mission (nearly) impossible. When taken correctly, the pill is 99.9% effective at preventing pregnancy (it doesn’t protect against STIs, FYI) (1).

Some forms of oral contraceptives are taken continuously for 12 weeks, and the 13th week contains placebo pills. This, theoretically, changes a woman’s cycle to 4 periods a year instead of the usual 13.

Periods vs. Withdrawal Bleeding

Your “period” on birth control isn’t an actual menstrual period. It’s withdrawal bleeding from briefly taking yourself off of the hormones during week 4.

 

Your Body Without Hormonal Birth Control

Your Body on Hormonal Birth Control

 

Skipping Your Period on Birth Control

There isn’t a biological necessity to getting your period while on birth control. Because you are not trying to get pregnant, you don’t need your uterine lining to thicken in order to support the fertilized egg. If you’re doctor believes it is okay for you to take birth control pills to begin with, they won’t necessarily have any issue with you jumping on to the next pill pack to delay your period. Regardless, you should always consult his/her first.

The Drawbacks?

Skipping your period can result in breakthrough bleeding during the first few months as your body tries to adjust (1).

If for some reason you get pregnant (pills weren’t taken properly or some chemical interference prevented their effectiveness), it may be difficult to figure out if you are pregnant. 

 

Why Do Birth Control Pill Packs Mimic the Menstrual Cycle?

Did You Know: In the 1950’s, when John Rock and Gregory Pincus developed the hormonal birth control pill, they thought if the pill pack mimicked the natural menstrual cycle of a woman there would be a greater likelihood of the Catholic Church accepting it (2).

 

Resources:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/birth-control-pills#
  2. https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/john-charles-rock-1890-1984

 

 

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