By Laura Stampler
It’s all about which type of birth control you choose.
Have you ever wished you could just skip your period? Whether you get cramps, mood swings, migraines, or just have a beach vacation on the horizon, there are many reasons why you might want to delay—if not completely eradicate—your monthly menstruation. So… why don’t you?
“You absolutely don’t have to get a period every month,” says Dr Taraneh Shirazian, a gynae NYU Langone. “And if you’re on medication, it’s completely safe.” In fact, researchers from the University of Oregon found that 17 per cent of 1,324 surveyed women on hormonal contraceptives including the patch, pill, and vaginal ring use them to alter their bleeding patterns. In another study of Dutch women, 38% of those observed chose to regularly skip their period using the pill.
And considering that the period you get when you’re on hormonal birth control is actually fake anyway—that’s right, Shirazian notes your so-called menstruation during your placebo week on the pill is “all manufactured,” meaning it’s facilitated by the hormones in the pills (not by ovulation)—you can actually feel free to skip it every month by changing how you take your birth control.
Here’s how to skip your period using:
Monthly Hormonal Birth Control Pills
Oral contraceptive pills (OCP) typically come in four-week packs, meaning the first three weeks contain hormones and the last week is usually placebo (or sugar) pills. The body withdrawals from the hormones during that placebo week, and thus, you bleed. But if you want to skip your period, all you have to do is skip over that final row of sugar pills and go right into your next pack. But taking your OCP continuously isn’t always foolproof. “Some women will have spotting and others could notice other symptoms,” like breast tenderness, Shirazian says, depending on how sensitive a woman is to her birth control. Still, other women will feel absolutely no side effects—other than the missing period, that is. If you are opting to skip your period every month, allow a period once every few months for the built-up endometrium to leave your body. One study showed that when women took the pill contiuously with no breaks, breakthrough bleeding happened more frequently than with those who chose to bleed every few months.
Although Shirazian says that many insurance companies will cover continuous and cyclic OCPs, it’s worth letting your doctor know that you are planning to take your birth control this way so that the prescription is written correctly—you’ll need more packs than normal in a year.
Extended Cycle Contraceptives
If switching to a new pack of pills every three weeks seems like too much, you can also talk to your doctor about switching to extended cycle contraceptives. Pills like Seasonale or Seasonique come in 90-day packs, and although they don’t completely get rid of your period, they do reduce your menstruation to four times a year. Lybrel is an extended cycle pill that gets rid of your period completely—although the FDA warns that women may experience unplanned breakthrough bleeding.
If you want your flow to fade into a distant memory, consider a hormonal IUD like Mirena. Women with this type of IUD might get a lighter period or “may not bleed at all for five years, if you’re very lucky,” Shirazian says. That’s because the progesterone secreted by the IUD thins the lining of the uterine wall, making it shed significantly less than it would otherwise.
The Ring Or Patch
Skipping your period on these methods of birth control is similar to the monthly pill. After three weeks of wearing the patch or the ring, you just need to swap it out for a new one instead of foregoing it for a week. Like with the pill, you might have some breakthrough bleeding, but it all just depends on your body. Just make sure you mention your plan to your doctor, so you have a new ring or patch ready to go.
This article was originally featured on www.womenshealthmag.com