- Download Clue to get a better sense of your average cycle length.
- Top things to know:
- Is skipping your “period” safe?
- Are there side effects of using the pill to skip your “period” continually?
- But won’t my body get backed up?
- How can I safely skip my period on birth control?
- So, it’s okay to skip my “period” on the pill?
- Is it safe to skip periods with birth control?
- No period after stopping birth control – what is it about?
- How to keep track of your menstrual cycle?
- The truth about what happens when women constantly skip their periods on birth control
- Victor J. Douek, MD
- What is the purpose of menstruation?
- Cleansing mechanism
- Invasive embryos
- Maternal self-defence
- Explore Methods
- Ladies, Here’s What Really Happens When You Use Birth Control To Skip Your Period
- What happens inside your body when you take two packs of the pill back-to-back?
- Will taking back-to-back packs of pills affect my fertility in the long term?
- What happens to the womb lining when you don’t let yourself have a period?
- How might the continuous influx of hormones affect your skin?
- And your hair?
- How about your mood?
- So is it safe to double back your pill?
- What happens if you do it for consecutive months?
Download Clue to get a better sense of your average cycle length.
Updated on July 15, 2019
Top things to know:
It’s fine to skip your “period” on the combined hormonal birth control pill
If you choose to skip your “period” continually, side effects can include breakthrough bleeding
Your uterus won’t get “backed up”
Make sure you know which kind of pill you have—monophasic or multiphasic—before skipping
Some people who choose to skip their “periods” using the birth control pill experience a decrease in menstrual cramps and premenstrual symptoms (3). Skipping your period (withdrawal bleeding) may also improve other menstruation-associated symptoms, including menstrual headaches, genital irritation, tiredness, and bloating (4). Also, people who are negatively impacted by monthly blood loss, such as people with anemia or who have bleeding tendency disorders, might also benefit from fewer “periods” (5).
If you are already taking combined hormonal birth control—like the pill, the ring, or the patch—your ovulation is already being suppressed each month, and the “period” that you are experiencing isn’t actually a real period. It’s a withdrawal bleed. This withdrawal bleeding is caused by the decline in reproductive hormones in your body during days when you are not receiving any hormones from your pill, patch, or ring (1,2).
There are many reasons why people choose to skip these “periods”, such as convenience (e.g. a hot date or vacation), symptom relief, or just personal preference.
Is skipping your “period” safe?
Medical studies have reported no significant negative health effects when you skip your period on the combined hormonal birth control pill (4). That being said, it’s still important to mention that there have been no long-term studies examining the safety of continually skipping your period. Sometimes medical repercussions take a longer time and/or need a larger population sample size to emerge.
If you choose to stop taking hormonal birth control, your natural menstrual cycle and fertility will usually return to normal after one month, regardless of how long you skipped your “period” (6).
Are there side effects of using the pill to skip your “period” continually?
The main side effect of having long bleeding-free stretches is an increase in unpredictable breakthrough bleeding (unpredictable mid-cycle bleeding) (3,4). The good news is that the frequency of breakthrough bleeding may decreases over time (4,7, A). Other than increased rates of breakthrough bleeding, taking your birth control pill consecutively, as opposed to having monthly pill-periods, does cause any additional side effects (4,8).
A concern about not having a regular “period” is that you lose the monthly confirmation that you’re not pregnant. Although skipping your withdrawal bleed with the pill provides you with the same contraceptive protection as before, it also comes with the same risks if you don’t take your pill on a regular daily basis.
But won’t my body get backed up?
No—you won’t get backed up. One thing to keep in mind is that when you’re on the pill you actually don’t have a normal “period”. In fact, the combined hormonal birth control pill doesn’t allow your endometrium (the lining of your uterus) to grow as thick as it normally would, which is why your periods on the pill (withdrawal bleeding) are much lighter than natural periods (9). If you skip a cycle, the continuous exposure of synthetic hormones will maintain your endometrium at the same suppressed level (10).
How can I safely skip my period on birth control?
There are many different combined hormonal birth control pills containing different types of synthetic hormones and doses. Some pills are monophasic—meaning they have the same dose of hormones in each pill. Other pills are multiphasic—meaning that the number of hormones in the pills changes throughout your pack. Your birth control package will indicate which kind of pill you have. You can choose to skip your “period” on either type of pill, but it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider before you start.
If you are taking a monophasic combined hormonal birth control pill
Take your hormonally active pills as normal.
Once you reach your placebo pills (hormone free pills at the end of your pack— these are normally indicated on the package), then simply skip over those and start your new pack the next day as Day 1.
Monophasic dose birth control pills allow flexibility with planning since you could technically schedule your period for whenever you wish. Just stop taking your pill for a few days (depending on the brand, this could be 4-7 days), and you will have a withdrawal period (11).
One study found that if you experience three days of consecutive breakthrough bleeding, choosing to start your period at that time would result in fewer bleeding days throughout the entire year (11).
If you are taking a multiphasic pill:
Take your hormonally active pills as normal.
Once you reach your placebo pills, simply skip over those and start your new pack the next day as Day 1.
With multiphasic pills, it’s ideal to have your period at the end of a pack (as opposed to the mid-pack possibility of monophasic pills).
Finish your current pack and take the placebo pills to bring on your period.
Skipping your period using multiphasic pills is not as well studied as monophasic preparations, which should be taken into consideration when thinking about skipping a period. In one study, although there were no adverse health outcomes related to continued period-skipping with a multiphasic pill, 4 out of 10 participants reported side effects, including breast tenderness and breakthrough bleeding (12).
There are also continuous/extended-use birth control pills on the market. Some pills have 84 days of active hormones followed by 7 days of placebo, giving you your period only four times per year. Another brand goes even further, providing a full year of menstrual suppression (4).
So, it’s okay to skip my “period” on the pill?
Overall, the consensus is yes—it’s okay to skip your withdrawal bleed on the pill. But since there are so many differently dosed birth control pills, it’s always best to first discuss the option of skipping your period with your healthcare provider to make sure that it is a safe and healthy option for you.
There is some concern that by normalizing period skipping, people will view their monthly menstruation as unnecessary, a nuisance, and even abnormal (13). Periods are neither a curse nor a disease. A menstrual cycle is like a vital sign, just like blood pressure, temperature, or respiration rate. It acts as an indicator of overall health (13). If you are on the pill and you want to have a period always, sometimes, or never, the choice is up to you and your preference.
If eliminating your period or withdrawal bleed is something that is important to you, then the standard birth control pill packs may not be the best option for you. There are other forms of contraception, like the hormonal injection, the hormonal IUD, the hormonal implant, or continuous birth control pills, that can cause your period to decrease in frequency and amount, and sometimes stop altogether (A). Speak to your healthcare provider about which type of birth control is best for you.
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Article was originally published on October 5, 2017.
Going on an extremely restricted diet can cause a missed period on the pill. Restricting your caloric intake too much can cause hormonal imbalance, since your body won’t be getting the nutrients it needs to produce hormones properly. Women who suffer from eating disorders are especially prone to this, but going on a crash diet can also affect your cycle
Did you know that sexual hormones come from cholesterol? Yes! So, it makes sense that having an abnormally low body fat percentage can wreak havoc on your hormones. Women who are either overweight or underweight can experience a myriad of hormonal issues. And if you lose a significant amount of weight quickly, your body may not be receiving enough calories to have a period.
Even for women who are not on birth control, excessive exercise can cause a missed period. This is because exercise can disrupt your hormonal levels and your menstrual cycle. High-performance athletes tend to suffer from amenorrhea and miss periods continuously, but even recreational athletes can experience this disruption.
Is it safe to skip periods with birth control?
Doctors and patients have been using birth control to stop periods for a long time. Some women choose to do it only for special occasions – maybe you expect your period right on your wedding date or honeymoon and would like to avoid it. Other women, however, use birth control to stop periods if they suffer from conditions such as endometriosis or period-related anemia.
If you’re interested in stopping periods with birth control, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about it. Fortunately, scientific research has found that using birth control to skip your period is as safe as taking your pills normally.
No period after stopping birth control – what is it about?
If you’ve decided to stop taking the pill, it can take a while for your cycle to return to normal. This varies from woman to woman. Some women go back to their regular menstrual cycle in a matter of days, while others need several months to have regular periods.
Allow your body up to 3 months to go back to normal after stopping your birth control. If your cycles remain irregular after this period, go to your doctor to find out the reason for your irregular cycles.
How to keep track of your menstrual cycle?
You can use a menstrual tracker like Flo to keep track of your cycle. Menstrual calendar apps allow you to log your symptoms and determine when you should expect your period. This can also take some weight off your mind, since you won’t have to remember when your period should come – the app will do it for you!
Overall, you’re more than likely safe from pregnancy as long as you’ve been taking your birth control correctly. A missed period on birth control can be caused by many different factors. Take a pregnancy test and if it is negative – try to ease your mind, do some relaxing activities, and stay healthy to help your cycle get back to normal!
The truth about what happens when women constantly skip their periods on birth control
The INSIDER Summary:
• Skipping periods with your birth control isn’t bad for you.
• OBGYNs say there’s no medical reason not to skip it.
• All the myths about skipping your period aren’t true.
• Some women like their periods so they know they’re not pregnant.
Every time I visit my doctor, the same question comes up: “When was your last period?” Considering I actively try to skip it every damn month, I can never remember when I last had my period. When I admit this, I get The Look. It’s the look that’s judging me for skipping my period indefinitely, as if it’s unhealthy. In fact, I get The Look so often I’ve started questioning my decision to live a glorious, period-free life. What if it’s not so glorious after all?
A quick Google search will yield two different answers to this question. On the one hand, article after article has been written arguing that there’s no real need to bleed. However, a handful of other articles give opposing information, telling women not to skip for more than three months. Even the Mayo Clinic website says doctors may suggest women take some time off from skipping. Nowhere does it say, “Sure, skip forever!”
I wanted to get to the bottom of this, so I reached out to several OBGYNs, the Mayo Clinic, and the the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to see who’s right and who’s wrong.
ACOG gave me a wishy-washy answer, saying they don’t “have one take on what’s best,” and suggested that it’s a decision a woman make with her doctor. But even so, their response implies that this is a serious medical issue that should be discussed with a professional — as if there might be some unforeseen danger to it.
So I decided to ask some OBGYNs, and guess what? Every single one I spoke to said there’s no medically necessary reason to have a period if a woman is on hormonal birth control — but that many women simply don’t know that.
“We get this question a lot,” says Diane Horvath-Cosper, an OBGYN (who Fusion profiled) and fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health, a national organization seeking to improve access to comprehensive reproductive health care. “Periods are not fun. People come in and they’re like, ‘Do I really need a period?'” The answer, she says, is no.
“Women have periods because the body is preparing for a possible pregnancy. If you’re on a contraception, you don’t build that uterine lining up,” she says. “There’s no need to bleed.”
So let’s unpack that, shall we? Every month a woman goes through a menstrual cycle (duh). Part of that cycle, which lasts on average 28 days, is the buildup of the uterine lining, which aids in pregnancy — essentially, the body’s welcome mat for the baby. If no baby arrives and a woman isn’t on hormonal birth control, her body will shed that bloody uterine lining (don’t need this anymore!). And that, folks, is a period.
A woman on hormonal birth control doesn’t actually build up a uterine lining. The pill controls the flow of progesterone and estrogen, and “overrides what your body would normally do,” says Michelle Berlin, an OBGYN and co-director of the Center for Women’s Health at Oregon Health & Science University. The “period” you get while on the pill is simply due to a change in level of or lack of hormones during the control week; it’s not a true period.
In fact, says Petra Casey, an OBGYN and the Mayo Clinic’s expert on birth control, there’s more of an argument to be made for not taking the placebo week of pills and continuing straight onto the next pack. This trick can also be done using the birth control ring for four weeks instead of three, or with certain extended cycle pills. Some women who use devices like implants or hormonal IUDs may also experience fewer periods as well.
The Mirena IUD. Caroline Praderio/INSIDER
“There’s no reason for taking a break,” she told me over the phone, “because every time you take a placebo week, you hit the reset button.” And resetting can cause issues since going on and off the hormones is what leads to irregular bleeding.
But this doesn’t mean you’re overloading your body with hormones — another urban legend associated with skipping periods. As all the OBGYNs explained to me, the hormones in the pill are actually less than what your body produces in a normal menstrual cycle, and way less than what your body produces when pregnant.
So if taking active pills continuously is totally safe, then why does the Mayo Clinic advise women to only take them for six weeks in a row?
It’s simple. “Some women want to have periods,” Casey says. “They want to be sure they’re not pregnant.”
But for those who do want to skip, OBGYNs will prescribe patients extra packs. “We’ve been doing that for decades,” says Casey. Other OBGYNs I spoke to said the same thing.
“OBGYNs often say to throw out the sugar pill,” says Berlin up in Oregon.
Turns out the pill is built the way it is because of men and religion. “n the 1950s, when the pill was being developed, people were more comfortable with faking a normal cycle,” says Horvath-Cosper. More specifically, developers of the birth control pill felt it would be an easier sell to the public — and more importantly the Catholic Church — if contraception felt “natural.” Which is why a week of placebos was built in to simulate a period. John Rocks, a developer of the birth control pill and a Catholic, “thought if women had a period, the Pope would buy it,” explains Berlin. “That’s the only reason it’s there.”
So, ladies, if you don’t want to have a period anymore, feel free to skip it using your monthly hormonal birth control pills or the birth control ring without stressing that you’re somehow screwing up your body. You’re not.
Bottom line: The time for bleeding is over.
Victor J. Douek, MD
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What is the purpose of menstruation?
The purpose of menstruation is to rid the female’s body of the waste composed of blood, hormones, ova, cells and nutrients which otherwise would have been used to prepare the body of the female for pregnancy and to form the placenta and nurture the developing fetus or fetuses. This occurs each month or every 28 days and is known as the menstrual cycle. Each month of the life of a human female from the earliest age of 8 years old until a woman is possibly in her 60’s her body will prepare her to nurture a fetus and at approximately 40 weeks that baby will be born. Now the mean ages for menstruation are normally from the ages of 11 until 55 but so many things have changed these variables. Some girls such as my niece began her cycle when she was 8 years old. There are also reports of girls giving birth at age 5. They used to say that early menstruation was due to antibiotics in the water. I don’t know what the current theories are. Then some women in different countries have given birth well into their 60’s. Again I don’t know what the theories are on that end. As the body of the female ages, her menstrual cycle will become irregular and eventually cease altogether. This is called menopause and can begin as early as a woman’s 30’s and into her 60’s. There are reports of women never going into menopause but this is rare. When menopause does occur a woman is no longer able to get pregnant as she no longer ovulates monthly. I hope I have given you the answer you sought.
For half the population, it comes three to five days each month, 12 months each year, for 40 years of our lives. Menstruation can be debilitating, relieving, disappointing, or simply an inconvenient fact of life.
But why do humans menstruate, when most animals don’t? When you shake the tree of life, you find that only a handful of mammals aside from us – primates, a small number of bat species, and the elephant shrew – have opted for the monthly bleed.
Each month the uterus prepares a thick and luxurious lining in preparation for the arrival of a fertilised egg – an embryo that will develop into a fetus and after nine months, a full-term baby. If no embryo arrives, there will be no pregnancy and menstruation sheds the thickened lining.
Evolution is often viewed in terms of a cost-benefit ledger: if something is costly, it must have some benefit. Women lose over half a standard glass of wine’s worth in iron-rich blood and tissue – about 90 millilitres – each time they menstruate, so the process does seem quite costly. And in the predator-filled environs of our early ancestors, leaving a trail of blood was presumably not advantageous.
So how did menstruation arise? Over recent decades, evolutionary biologists have come up with three key theories to explain human menstruation.
One controversial theory, proposed in the 1990s by self-taught biologist Margie Profet, suggested menstruation was a cleansing mechanism. Being the amorous species that we are, human females require a mechanism to regularly flush out the infection-laden sperm that gathers from our sexual conquests.
Most women go through 450 to 480 menstrual cycles in their lifetime. Image from .com
This argument was soon found to have more than a few flaws. For a start, women are more susceptible, not less, to infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea during menstruation, as the cervical mucus thins out.
The iron-rich blood also serves as an attractive food source for Staphylococcus aureus, of tampon-associated toxic shock syndrome notoriety.
And there is no correlation between level of promiscuity in us and our close primate relatives and heaviness of bleeding, as the theory predicts.
A more plausible explanation for menstruation is that it evolved to accommodate the peculiar way in which human embryos embed into the lining of the uterus – the endometrium – during pregnancy.
In some mammals with a placenta, a fertilised embryo attaches to the endometrium only superficially. In humans and other menstruating species, implantation is deep and invasive, and requires an especially luxurious lining to develop in preparation for implantation.
While other mammals are able to reabsorb the lining that adorns their fertile womb, the volume of tissue in humans is too great, so if no pregnancy ensues, it is expelled instead.
The lining of the uterus, or endometrium, thickens in preparation for pregnancy. National Cancer Institute” zoomable
In the evolutionary cost-benefit analysis, building up the lining only when a pregnancy is on the cards – only when we ovulate once a month – could be less costly than maintaining this expensive lining indefinitely.
Another key difference between menstruators and non-menstruators is in the impetus for uterine thickening. In non-menstruating mammals, the final thickening of the endometrium (a process called decidualisation) only occurs once the lining senses the bleating signals from the embryo saying, “I’m here, now make my bed!”
Somewhere along the human evolutionary path, the dialogue between embryo and uterus shifted, so that the signals causing the endometrium to thicken came not from the embryo, but from the mother herself. Instead of being linked to the presence of the embryo, uterine thickening became linked to ovulation and the choreographed hormonal up-and-down that each woman cycles through on a monthly basis.
But what’s with all this pre-emptive pampering? Not all mammals prepare for pregnancy so hopefully each month. Rabbits, for example, only ovulate and thicken their endometrium when they copulate.
American evolutionary biologists Deena Emera, Roberto Romero and Günter Wagner argue that the spontaneous thickening of the uterine lining is in fact a defence mechanism. Except the defence is against our own parasitic offspring, rather than sperm-borne infection.
Since mother and child do not share identical genes, their purposes are at odds. From the embryo’s perspective, the maximum benefit is gained from squeezing as many resources from its mother as possible. It even dampens its mother’s response to insulin, ensuring that a greater slice of the circulating sugar pie is placenta-bound during its nine-month residence.
The embryo tries to squeeze as many resources from its mother as possible. Image from .com
The mother, meanwhile, prefers to be frugal with her resources, so that she can survive this pregnancy and go on to populate the next generation with additional children endowed with her unique genetic contribution.
There are two reasons that this maternal–fetal tug of war could have resulted in spontaneous thickening of the uterus. First, with implantation already invasive in humans and other menstruating species, the pre-thickened lining could be an evolutionary push-back to prevent the embryo from burrowing even deeper into the uterine wall.
The second reason is to protect the mother from expending valuable resources on faulty fetuses. The thickened lining could be an efficient way to sense – and if necessary, jettison – any tainted, and therefore unwanted, embryos. Around 30% to 60% of all human embryos are unceremoniously discarded in this way, before any signs of pregnancy occur.
While its evolutionary origins are firmly rooted in what takes place during pregnancy, the reality is that for most menstrual cycles, no embryo arrives. The decidual cells that have thickened the uterine lining pack up shop, the extracellular matrix keeping them all together breaks down, and the lining becomes as deciduous as the autumn leaves.
For Western most women who bear few children, this menstrual cycle is repeated 450 to 480 times over.
That weekend at the beach you’ve been looking forward to or the first day of school or a new job can be stressful times to have your period start, especially if your periods are painful. Wouldn’t it be nice on days like those not to have to worry about pads, tampons, or pain killers? If you use the pill or the ring for birth control, you are in luck—you can skip periods as you please.
First, a few details about the pill.
Many types of pill come in packs with 21 or 24 active pills—those are the ones that contain the hormones that make them effective birth control.
The other 7 or 4 pills are placebos—they cause your period to start and are not part of what makes birth control pills effective.
Some pills are monophasic, meaning they have the same mix of hormones each week in the active pills.
Some are multiphasic, meaning that the mix of hormones changes from week to week in the active pills.
Now, the details on how to control your periods.
There are some brands of pills that come pre-packaged for skipping periods. But you don’t need those brands to skip periods like a pro. If you’re on the ring or any monophasic pill, you can control the timing of your periods. Sometimes skipping periods this way is described as continuous use or extended use—it’s all the same deal. Here’s how it works.
FAQs for skipping periods
Question: Aren’t women supposed to have a period every month? Am I hurting myself by skipping periods?
Answer: Nope. It is totally safe to go for months or even years without having a period. Think about it—a woman who has and breastfeeds a baby may go for two years without periods. The only time health care providers get worried about a patient not having periods is when there isn’t a medical reason like birth control or breastfeeding. Plus, birth control pills and the ring make the lining of the uterus very thin, so there is very little to “clean out.”
Question: How long can I skip periods?
Answer: It is safe to skip periods for as long as you want! It depends on what you are comfortable with and whether you have spotting. Spotting—a.k.a. breakthrough bleeding—is normal, and may just be a sign that your body is adjusting to continuous use of birth control. If you don’t like the spotting, you can have a period. You may be able to control spotting by having a period every 3-4 months.
Question: If I use my birth control continuously, does that decrease how well it works at preventing pregnancy?
Answer: No, ma’am. After you’ve been using it for a week, the pill is the pill—same goes for the ring. It’s just as effective for women who choose to have a period each month as those who choose to skip periods. The only thing that makes these methods less effective is forgetting to use them. Studies of women who take birth control pills continuously show that they like having fewer periods so much that it helps them remember to take the pill more regularly. (BTW, if you need help remembering, we have an app for that.)
Question: Why should my pill be monophasic if I want to skip periods?
Answer: Monophasic pills cause less spotting than multiphasic pills when you take them continuously.
Question: Will the ring really last for four weeks?
Answer: Yep. The ring has enough hormone in it to effectively prevent pregnancy for 4 weeks, no extra steps needed to skip your period.
Question: Besides getting to decide when I have my period, are there other perks to skipping periods with birth control?
Answer: Probably. Studies that compared menstrual symptoms in women taking pills the traditional way and continuously found that those who take pills continuously have fewer headaches, genital irritation, tiredness, bloating, and menstrual pain. Hurray for fewer period symptoms!
So yeah, birth control can be great protection against an accidental pregnancy, but it can also offer big benefits like having fewer periods and controlling when they start. If the pill or the ring aren’t for you and you want to have fewer or lighter periods, check out the hormonal IUDs, the implant, and the shot. As always, talk to your health care provider with any questions or concerns.
Valerie French, MD, MAS, completed a fellowship in family planning before joining the Ob/Gyn faculty at the University of Kansas. She loves working at a teaching hospital and sharing her passion for family planning with learners. Dr. French is interested in improving access to reproductive health services in under-served areas, as she herself had difficulty obtaining birth control in college.
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Missing a period is bittersweet. Not having to deal with cramps and all that nonsense for a month is amazing. But worrying about unplanned pregnancy, or something else going on with your health, is stressful and not so amazing. To help put your mind at ease, whether you occasionally miss periods or not, here’s a list of the most common reasons why your period may be on the fritz.
1. You’re pregnant. Even if you are on reliable birth control and have been ~careful~, this should be your first instinct if your period is late or missing entirely. “The first three things to check for are pregnancy, pregnancy, pregnancy, this is the number-one thing I look for when you miss your period—even if you don’t think you could be,” says Alyssa Dweck, an ob-gyn in New York and author of The Complete A to Z for Your V. Plus, because early pregnancy symptoms can be so similar to PMS-y ones (oh, hey, sore boobs), it can be tough to tell the difference. Since it’s probably the first thing your ob-gyn office will inquire about, if you’ve been sexually active, go ahead and take an at-home pregnancy test to be sure.
2. You got really sick. Dr. Dweck says this doesn’t just mean you had a cold, or some bad allergies—but like, sick as in the flu, or something serious enough to land you in the hospital. Serious illness can mess with your cycle because it stresses your body out, and puts too much stress on the part of your brain that regulates hormones.
3. You’ve been on the pill for a while. Rejoice — don’t worry — if your period becomes barely-there-light or disappears altogether. With some low-dose estrogen pills and the IUD Mirena, the endometrial lining doesn’t build up, so there’s not much lining to shed, explains Melissa Goist, an ob-gyn at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Sometimes women on these pills don’t menstruate monthly or at all,” she says. So relax, it’s completely safe. (Although if you suspect that you could be pregnant, even if you’re on the pill — it’s rare but it happens — at the risk of being redundant, take a test.)
4. You have a tumor. Before you freak out, Dr. Dweck says this isn’t as a big a deal as it sounds like. But there’s something called a prolactinoma, or a benign tumor that affects the pituitary gland and causes it to secrete too much of the hormone prolactin. According to UCLA Health, prolactinomas are the most common hormonally-active pituitary tumor, but Dr. Dweck clarifies that they’re still considerably rare. These can cause late or missed periods because they also interfere with your ability to generate estrogen—and when estrogen is low, your body has a hard time regulating menstruation, and skips periods.
5. Something is off with your thyroid. This gland in your neck regulates your metabolism, produces hormones, controls your body temp, and more. You want it to be on point. When it’s over- or underactive, it may stop ovulation, prompting an irregular period, and possibly impair fertility, according to a new study in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist. If your doctor suspects this could be the cause (and you have other symptoms, like fatigue, thinning hair, weight gain or loss) she’ll run a simple blood test and probably prescribe a medication. “With the right treatment, your period should go back to normal within a few months,” says Dr. Goist.
6. You’re too into your exercise routine. Hitting the gym even though you’re exhausted from your workout the day before? Or you jokingly say you live at the gym, but it’s actually kinda true? Over-exercising (and eating too little), as well as rapid weight loss or suffering from an eating disorder can all cause your period to disappear, particularly if your BMI drops below 19 or 18, says Dr. Dweck. Thankfully, “simply cutting down on exercise or gaining a couple pounds will get your BMI up a bit, and you’ll get your period,” she says. What you don’t want to do is go without a period for more than a year (if you’re not on birth control), which can put you at risk for bone loss and osteoporosis.
7. You just stopped taking your birth control pill. A hormonal pill can awesomely regulate your cycle, so when you stop taking it, it can be a shock to your body. “We’re not sure exactly why it happens, but it may take time for your system to wake up,” says Dr. Dweck. So, it might be a couple months until you get your period again. One big thing to remember: You can still get pregnant even without a period — you can still ovulate — so use condoms anyway if you’re not ready to get pregnant.
8. Stress is getting to you. Work has been totally nuts or your class load has you pulling all-nighters. “I describe it to women as whatever stress you’re under, your body decided it was not a good time to get pregnant. It’s your body’s way of protecting you,” says Dr. Goist. But as long as you can get your stress under control and it’s an isolated thing, it’s no big deal if you miss a period or it’s super late one time.
9. You have PCOS. You’re not getting your period. You’ve got acne. You’re gaining weight despite a healthy lifestyle. And your face and chest are sprouting weird hairs. Your gyno may consider PCOS, aka polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal imbalance that keeps the egg from maturing, halting ovulation, and preventing your period. If an exam or blood tests show you’ve got PCOS, you can treat it with healthy lifestyle habits, like losing weight if necessary, eating well, and going on birth control pills or other meds. Though there’s no cure for PCOS, notes Dr. Goist, you can control the symptoms to live happier.
10. You have a pituitary problem. Are your nipples leaking a milky white fluid? Yikes. “It’s rare but I have women come in and tell me they lost their period and have nipple discharge and a headache from time to time,” explains Dr. Dweck. She’ll give her patients a blood test to check prolactin levels, a hormone that — yep — prompts your body to produce breast milk. If levels are high, you may have a benign pituitary tumor called a prolactinoma. Before you freak out, know this: You’d be referred to an endocrinologist, but it’s totally treatable, most often with medication.
11. You’ve gained a lot of weight. Just like being underweight can cause a problem, so can being overweight. Obese women were twice as likely to have an irregular cycle compared to those who were normal weight, according to an Australian study. Carrying around excess weight may cause hormone issues that throw off your cycle; plus, it’s also linked to PCOS. The good news is that losing weight through a smart diet can help bring your period back, a new study shows.
12. You got new roommates. It may be a funny urban myth, but some experts say that moving in with a new group of girls can cause your period to become irregular in an attempt to sync up with the group. “I’ve heard of young college girls saying this happens to them,” says Dr. Goist. Though studies are definitely mixed — some say it happens, others call B.S. So we don’t totally know for sure. But think about it a little harder and you may find your lack of period is actually stress-related — especially if you’re having roomie issues.
Jessica Migala Jessica Migala is a health writer specializing in general wellness, fitness, nutrition, and skincare, with work published in Women’s Health, Glamour, Health, Men’s Health, and more. Hannah Smothers Hannah writes about health, sex, and relationships for Cosmopolitan, and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Periods are a part of life for women, but many women would like to be able to control when they happen. Others may have a history of difficult periods and just want to do without the stress.
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Taking birth control pills continuously represents a common and safe method for managing menstrual disturbances and other associated problems.
As an Ob/Gyn, I often recommend this approach for women who have very heavy bleeding or who have severe symptoms during their periods. Even women with normal menstrual cycles can benefit from using hormonal birth control to skip periods.
Here are seven benefits of taking the pill continuously to skip periods:
1. Prevent anemia. Women who experience very heavy bleeding during their monthly cycle have a greater tendency toward anemia due to the blood loss. Taking active birth control pills (the ones with hormones in them, not the placebos) continuously will make you skip your period. This prevents the heavy loss of blood that can lead to anemia.
2. Prevent menstrual migraines. Some women have excruciating migraines around and during their period because their bodies are especially sensitive to the hormone fluctuations that occur. Avoiding your period can help stave off these painful headaches.
3. Have clearer skin. If your face regularly breaks out with pimples during your period, using the pill to avoid menstruating altogether can leave your skin clearer.
4. Enjoy a better quality of life. For some women, skipping periods means skipping debilitating cramps, bloating and moodiness that regularly arise at that time of the month. This gives them a better quality of life and relieves the stress of anticipating these symptoms.
5. Lower your risk for some cancers. Using hormonal methods to skip periods also decreases a woman’s risk of ovarian and uterine cancers.
6. Prevent ovarian cysts. Ovarian cysts are sacs filled with fluid that form on or in a woman’s ovary. They may or may not be painful, but your doctor still needs to address them to identify the underlying cause. Skipping your period by using birth control pills (or other hormonal methods) can prevent these cysts from forming or help eliminate any you currently have.
7. Enjoy carefree travel and hobbies. If you’ve planned a weekend at the beach or are participating in a sporting event, you don’t want to have to worry about tampons and pads. With your doctor’s guidance, you can learn how to use birth control to ensure you don’t have a period during this time. Then you can enjoy your time at the beach or take part in your sporting competition without worry.
Other options, risks
It’s easy to understand why some women would want to skip a period. That Jamaican vacation or a new job can be much more enjoyable if you don’t have to worry that you’ll start your period. Additionally, if you have painful symptoms or excessive menstrual bleeding that interferes with daily life every month, you might like a break from it for a while.
Some people may not like the thought of having to take a pill every day. As another option, you can use a vaginal ring contraceptive to skip periods. Normally, you would place the ring in your vagina and wear it for three weeks, then take ihholt out for seven days to have a period. Then you would insert a new ring. But if you immediately insert a new ring after the three weeks end, you’ll avoid your period.
The only real risk to using birth control to miss your periods is that there’s a small chance of breakthrough bleeding, which is any vaginal bleeding that occurs mid-cycle or when using hormonal methods to avoid your period. Because of this, you might want to carry some pads or tampons with you just in case.
Any medication can cause side effects, so be sure to ask your doctor if birth control is right for you.
Ladies, Here’s What Really Happens When You Use Birth Control To Skip Your Period
After an excruciating month apart, your long-distance boyfriend is finally visiting you. You bought a sheer, sexy lingerie set and a new perfume from Victoria’s Secret, and you’re ready to tackle him when he gets off the airplane.
Your dream vacation in Punta Cana with all of your closest friends has, at last, arrived. Carrying a duffel bag packed with your favorite guilty pleasure books and your hottest bikinis, you step into the hotel lobby and inhale the sweet and salty ocean air. Beach time is here.
This has been the roughest week of your life. You’ve been carrying the heavy weight of an impossible workload and irritating coworkers, and you want nothing more than to hit the town on Saturday night with your girls. The bar, an amaretto sour and your tightest bandage dress are calling your name.
Suddenly, your birth control alarm on your cell phone rings. Like every other day, you nonchalantly reach for your pill pack, pop today’s pill out, and chase it down with some water.
The gods of probability despise you. It’s period week. Starting tomorrow. Tomorrow.
Sheer panic ensues because this is literally the worst thing to happen to any woman. What will you do? You haven’t seen your boyfriend in weeks and you’re accumulating cobwebs down there.
There’s no way your white bikini will hold up against the waves of the crimson tide. And all of that bloating will make you look like a balloon in your bandage dress.
There’s only one solution: skip your period.
We all do it. Lots of doctors won’t officially sign on to the idea that it’s okay for you to skip your period while you’re on birth control, but emerging research suggests it’s actually okay to do.
Dr. David Grimes, a leading expert on birth control and clinical professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, told ABC News that monthly bleeding is not required for good health, so “menstrual suppression” — using birth control to skip your period — is fine.
If your doctor tells you it’s safe for you to be on birth control, it’s safe to skip your period, according to Mayo Clinic, the leading nonprofit organization in medical care and research.
Planned Parenthood agrees that it’s safe, but emphasizes that women who are unfit for birth control in the first place should not be skipping periods.
This includes women who are unhealthy, who have uncontrollably high blood pressure, who are smokers, and who are over 35, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine.
You can choose to skip your period whenever you want if you’re on the ring or the pill. With the ring, simply leave your ring in for four weeks, and then when you take it out, immediately replace it with a new one. Period skipped.
With the pill, you can skip your period with “extended-cycle” pills or with regular pills. Most extended-cycle pills on the market decrease the amount of periods you have per year to four. The first one, Seasonale, came out in 2003, and the second, Seasonique, came out in 2006.
These extended-cycle pills give you 12 weeks’ worth of active pills and then one week’s worth of inactive pills (Seasonale) or low-estrogen pills (Seasonique), which will be your period week.
It’s also possible to skip your period on regular pills, so instead of continuing into week four’s inactive pills to get your period, you’d start a new pack right at the end of your active pill cycle.
Some doctors are hesitant to bring up this idea on their own, but if you bring it up yourself, your doctor may recommend a schedule.
For example, he or she might say to take active pills for six weeks in a row (so you skip one period), and then take inactive pills during week seven, which is when you’ll have your period.
If there are no significant side effects during those first two months, your doctor might tell you to take active pills for nine weeks in a row (so you skip two periods), and then take inactive pills during week ten. The active pill weeks may then increase to 12 for the next cycle, and so on.
Skipping periods alleviates lots of uncomfortable, intense symptoms. It can be beneficial for you to skip your period if you have heavy, painful or frequent periods; headaches or other intense symptoms during your placebo week; a mental or physical disability that inhibits you from using tampons or pads; mood swings, bloating and heavy breast tenderness in the seven to 10 days before your period; or conditions like endometriosis, asthma or migraines that worsen during your period. Or, you know, if your boyfriend is flying in from Los Angeles.
According to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, women who skip their periods experience a heightened sense of well-being, fewer PMS symptoms, lighter and less painful periods, and reduced migraines, endometriosis and acne.
Studies even suggest that taking active pills for six or more weeks before taking inactive pills for your period week is just as safe and effective at preventing pregnancy as taking birth control pills normally.
Of course, there are some negative side effects to skipping your period. It may be difficult to tell if you’re pregnant because you’re not bleeding regularly.
Additionally, breakthrough bleeding can occur within the first few months of skipping your period, but that will adjust as time goes on. Minkin says breakthrough bleeding is not a health hazard; it’s just annoying.
Susan Ernst, M.D., chief of gynecology services for the University Health Service at the University of Michigan, says this bleeding happens because your body isn’t experiencing the normal monthly lining shed.
To reduce breakthrough bleeding, she recommends that you try to have your period every three- to four- months instead of trying to go without it for a year, which some people choose to do.
Still, there are groups that assert the lack of research in menstrual suppression and are therefore reluctant to recommend it to women.
A press release from the Society of Menstrual Cycle Research contends that “the complex hormonal interplay of the menstrual cycle… on women’s health not completely understood,” so it really could be hard to tell what skipping periods does.
The press release states:
Long-term studies that address potential risks beyond the uterus, such as breast, bone, and cardiovascular health are still needed. Furthermore, there is an urgent need for studies that address impacts on adolescent development, since young women and girls are a target audience for cycle-stopping contraceptives. It is also important to address the social, psychological, and cultural implications of menstrual suppression, as well as the biomedical effects.
Overall, skipping your birth control seems to provide more benefits than consequences, so it’s up to you to decide if having sex with your boyfriend now because after this week you won’t have sex with him for another month is worth it. I say it is.
Photo Courtesy: Queen Tonks
If your contraception of choice is the pill, the chances are you’ve probably gone some months in your history of taking it without having a period. Whether it’s because of a holiday, a special event, or that you just can’t be doing with the faff of all the bleeding and inevitable bloating it causes, you most certainly won’t be the only one who’s decided to pass.
But how does this actually impact our bodies? It turns out, it doesn’t. Guidelines released last year from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health (FSRH) state that there is no health benefit by taking the seven-day hormone-free interval that’s so commonplace on the combined pill.
According to the guidelines, which were accredited by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE): “Women can safely take fewer (or no) hormone-free intervals to avoid monthly bleeds, cramps and other symptoms.”
The FSRH also suggests that, if users of the combined pill still wish to take a hormone-free interval in their cycle, “shortening it to four days could potentially reduce the risk of pregnancy.”
The updated guidelines echo previous advice Cosmopolitan UK previously sought from a doctor on the whole is it safe to double back your pill? debacle. Dr Seth Rankin of The London Doctors Clinic, explained at the time that there was no risk to health or fertility by taking the pill consistently. You can read his answers to all your questions on the matter here:
What happens inside your body when you take two packs of the pill back-to-back?
“The effects of the pill generally only last 24-hours. That’s why you need to take it every day, and not once a week, for example, since the body breaks down the hormones on a daily basis. Therefore, there’s no significant cumulative effect of taking the pill: no build-up of hormones after over 21 days’ tablets.”
Will taking back-to-back packs of pills affect my fertility in the long term?
“There is no evidence to suggest that long-term fertility is affected by continued use of the pill. In fact, fertility bounces back very quickly after the 7 pill-free days, hence why unplanned pregnancies often occur after a prolonged pill-free period.”
What happens to the womb lining when you don’t let yourself have a period?
“The pill contains two hormones: oestrogen and progesterone. If you can think back to year 9 science, you’ll remember that the role of progesterone in the menstrual cycle is to thicken the lining of the womb. (See, those lessons weren’t a waste of time!)
“So, if you’ve take twice as many pills (6 weeks’ worth instead of 3) since your last period, you’d assume the womb to be twice as thick, resulting in a heavier period, no? Actually, in reality it doesn’t seem that simple, with little evidence found to correlate the number of consecutive pills taken with the heaviness of the withdrawal bleed. Some women may experience heavier bleeding after a longer cycle, others may not.”
How might the continuous influx of hormones affect your skin?
“Higher oestrogen levels have a positive effect on skin, and are often used to treat conditions such as acne in women. Oestrogen stimulates the production of hyaluronic acid, which enables the skin to stay well moisturised, smooth and soft.
“In fact, a recent study in to the effects of ‘extended cycle use’, in which 625 women took 4 packs of the oral contraceptive pill back to back (84 pills in total) showed a decrease in skin problems.”
And your hair?
“Sex hormones, such as oestrogen, are known for having a great effect on hair, promoting healthy hair growth. That’s why in some cases the oral contraceptive pill can also be used to help with alopecia. Post-menopause, women have lower levels of oestrogen, which can lead to gradual hair thinning.
“Conversely, pregnant women have much higher levels of oestrogen than normal, often resulting in hair that is both thicker and stronger. After all, it’s the least Mother Nature can do to make up for the many downsides of pregnancy: stretch marks, swollen ankles, extreme tiredness etc… So theoretically, an extended cycle of these hormones in the pill would likely have a positive effect on hair, although this has not been extensively researched to date.”
How about your mood?
“There’s no denying the effect hormonal contraceptives have on women’s moods! And the more sex hormones in your blood, the more effect on your mood. Different packs of the oral contraceptive pill have different doses of oestrogen and progesterone – a discussion that your doctor will likely have with you. The higher the dose, the more the side-effects, good and bad. Some women will experience better hair and skin, but worse mood swings, weight gain etc. It’s all just swings and roundabouts…
“Having said that, some women taking the pill report symptoms of hormone withdrawal during the seven pill-free days of the traditional 28 days cycle most women conform to. So by this logic, longer cycles might keep these withdrawal episodes to a minimum.”
Does it affect your weight?
“The implication of the pill being responsible for women putting on weight is a controversial one, with some doctors arguing that women would most likely gradually put weight on anyway over the years. Although many women do experience an increase in weight due to the pill, it’s also hard to narrow down whether this is directly due to the pill, or secondary to the effects the pill has on women’s moods.
“There is no evidence to suggest that taking consecutive packs of pills increases weight change.”
So is it safe to double back your pill?
“The most significant risk of taking the pill is the risk of developing blood clots, leading to deep vein thromboses (DVT), which can break off and travel to the lungs or brain, resulting in pulmonary embolism or stroke, respectively.
“There has been extensive research into any link between prolonged pill cycles and the increased risk of blood clots. Multiple studies measuring equal risk of blood clots between the traditional 21/7 day pill cycle vs a 91-day pill regimen have found no change in blood clot risk whether you take the pill in one, two or 3 month cycles.”
What happens if you do it for consecutive months?
“The NHS warns against taking multiple packs of the combined oral contraceptive pill back to back; not specifically on the grounds of it being unsafe, but because of the chances of breakthrough bleeding (spotting) or side-effects such as bloating.
“However, conversely, doctors actually recommend continuous use of oral contraceptives for treatment of conditions such as endometriosis, as well as to ease heavy or painful periods.
“Evolutionarily, our female ancestors would have far fewer menstrual cycles than the average modern woman, as the former would spend most of her life either pregnant or breastfeeding. So women don’t need a period every month to stay healthy. Perhaps it’s just a welcoming reassurance of the absence of pregnancy. But in this modern day and age, this reassurance can also be gained by means of £2.99 pregnancy tests from your nearest pharmacy!”
Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock PhotoAlamy
So all in all, straight from the doctor’s mouth (and now also the FSRH, too), it doesn’t seem like there is any evidence to suggest danger or disadvantage from taking back-to-back packs of pills. Essentially, it’s up to you how frequently you want your periods…
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Related Story Catriona Harvey-Jenner Digital Features Editor Cat is Cosmopolitan UK’s features editor covering women’s issues, health and current affairs.