We’re all familiar with the abundance of not-so-nice names and plain old negative feelings that surround our periods each month. Cramps, bleeding, moods, bloating, cravings, fogginess, fatigue (not to mention a whole lot of discomfort). And the cherry on top? The monthly expense of pricey period accouterments as evidenced in the tampon tax—oh joy! It’s no wonder folks are wondering how to skip your period on birth control. Well, you’re in luck, because the answers for how to safely opt out of your less-than-enjoyable time of the month can be found below.
It’s no secret that periods just aren’t that fun. But with that being said, I know and deeply respect friends and women who feel empowered by, look forward to, or don’t mind getting their period. Some women welcome it as a sign of good health. But here’s the truth: that’s never been me, and perhaps that’s true for you as well. In fact, there is no medical indication that you have to have a monthly cycle while on hormonal birth control or when you aren’t trying to conceive. Say it again for those in the back.
I repeat: It is 100 percent healthy and OK to skip your period. But enough lead-up. Let’s jump into the specifics of how to skip your period on birth control—and why it’s totally safe to do so.
Feature image by Teal Thomsen.
Image by Claire Huntsberger
A Little Background on the Menstrual Cycle
First of all, if your menstrual cycle feels like a mystery to you, this article provides a baseline understanding of what’s going on in that beautiful body of yours. If you’d like to dive deeper into the science of hormone shifts that take place while on the pill, this piece is for you.
The Deal With Periods and Birth Control
It can be helpful to have a basic understanding of how the pill, patch, or ring works. These methods of birth control feed your body a steady, low dose of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones affect your endogenous or natural hormone balance just enough so that you stop ovulating. Over time, you’ll build up less and less of a uterine lining for an egg to implant into. (Psst… these effects are both completely reversible when you stop using birth control.)
In other words, if you aren’t building up a lining for the egg to attach itself to, then your uterine lining doesn’t need to shed in the first place (in essence, what a period is). When you get to the sugar pills or point in the month when you remove your patch or ring, you’re essentially rapidly removing hormones and causing a small “withdrawal” bleed that looks and feels like a period. But here’s the thing: it isn’t.
Image by Teal Thomsen
The Bizarre Reason We Get Periods on Birth Control
So why do we bleed on the pill? To keep a long story short, one of the inventors of the pill was Catholic. He hoped that if he created a pill that mimicked women’s natural cycle, it might be accepted by the Catholic Church, massively increasing the pill’s use. He designed the pill so that a small withdrawal bleed would look like a period. And the pill’s prescription instructions haven’t changed since.
That’s right, you’re having a fake period while taking birth control—and the reason has little (read: nothing) to do with women’s health. For more clarity and insight into this controversial and fascinating topic, here’s a breakdown.
Using These Birth Control Methods? You May Be Able to Skip Your Period.
If you’re using any of the forms of birth control below, you may be able to skip your period.
- Monophasic Birth Control (“The Pill”)*
- The Ring (NuvaRing)
- The Patch (Orhto-evra, Twila, Xulane)
*Verify that your pill isn’t labeled as triphasic or a mini-pill (progesterone only). You can find this info with a quick Google search of the name of your pill or consult your medical provider.
Implanted or injected forms of birth control, such as IUDs, Implants, or Depo Provera won’t allow you to manipulate your cycle. However, in many cases, hormonal IUDs do oftentimes lighten periods and are worth looking into. You can learn more about this form of birth control here.
Birth Control Pills Designed to Skip Periods
Interestingly, there are a handful of birth control pill products specifically designed to skip periods for up to three months at a time. Essentially, they’re setting your body up to do what I’ll teach below. Only four periods a year? Sign me up.
Some common U.S. brands providing these products are:
Image by Belathée Photography
Why You May Want to Skip Your Period
Individuals may choose to skip their periods for a whole host of reasons, including:
- Migraines or headaches
- Mood swings
- Painful cramps
- Pelvic pain
- Heavy bleeding
- Price of tampons, pads, and products
- To avoid inconveniences of menstruation during special events (i.e., vacations, weddings, honeymoons)
How to Skip Your Period on Birth Control
To start skipping your period, it can be helpful to use a cycle tracking calendar to track where you are in the month. Perhaps you’ve been using birth control for a significant time and feel that you don’t need to track your ovulation. But using an app like this one developed by Planned Parenthood will remind you when you started your pack of pills, ring, or patch and when it’s time to replace them.
How to Skip Your Period Using the Pill
Take your pill as normal during the first three weeks of your pack. When you get to the placebo or sugar pills, move directly to a new pack of birth control. This will let you effectively skip your period. In your tracking calendar, mark when you started and stopped each pack.
After two to four months, it can be a good idea to go ahead and take the sugar pills, have a period, and continue your next pack at the correct time. This will help prevent breakthrough bleeding, a common side effect of period skipping. I dive further into breakthrough bleeding below.
How to Skip Your Period Using the Patch
Use your patch as indicated, changing it weekly. After three weeks of introducing new patches following this weekly cadence, leave the patch off for one week, have a period, and apply a new patch. To skip your period, instead of leaving the patch off for a week after your first three weeks, simply reapply a new patch on week four and continue applying weekly.
After applying new patches weekly for 12 weeks, it can be a good idea to leave your patch off for one week to have a period. Apply a new patch as normal and continue for another 12 weeks. This helps prevent breakthrough bleeding.
How to Skip Your Period Using the Ring
NuvaRing can be left in place for up to 3-5 weeks and will remain effective this entire time. Different people choose to replace the ring at different times. Be consistent and change your ring on the same day of the week. To skip your period while using the ring, wear the ring for either three weeks (21 days), four weeks (28 days), or five weeks (35 days), take out the old ring and immediately replace it with a new ring. After replacing your ring three times, leave it out for one week. This will help prevent breakthrough bleeding.
Image by Michelle Nash
What to Do if You Experience Breakthrough Bleeding
The most common side effect of practicing period skipping is breakthrough bleeding. This is when you begin to bleed or have period symptoms at irregular times (i.e., times when you normally wouldn’t expect a period). Sometimes, while taking birth control continuously in an attempt to skip your period, you may experience a random bleed. This is a sign that your body is ready to have a period.
Some people can go months without breakthrough bleeding while others may not be a good candidate for period skipping as they may experience breakthrough bleeding every few months. The only way to know if you will experience breakthrough bleeding is to try period skipping using the one of methods illustrated above. During a breakthrough bleed, I recommend continuing to take the pill, patch, or ring as prescribed. When it’s time, proceed with your sugar pills or week without the ring or patch to allow for a period. You can then restart your new ring, patch, or pack of pills and attempt to skip your period again the next month.
Breakthrough bleeding is more common when you are starting birth control after having normal natural cycles for a while or changing forms of birth control. Once you’ve used a combined oral contraceptive method for six months, this is less common as your uterine lining continues to thin.
Image by Michelle Nash
A few final notes on how to skip your period on birth control. First, I hope you’ve found some of this information helpful and supportive. If you aren’t familiar with birth control or are starting a new method for the first time, skipping your period can feel complicated. I recommend making an appointment with your OB/GYN, Planned Parenthood, or nurse-midwife to make sure all of your questions are answered.
For others who have used birth control for a long time or who have a good understanding of how their preferred method works, skipping your period may feel easier. I hope it’s a source of joy, too.
*The information above is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. If you have any medical conditions or are unsure if skipping your period is right for you, it’s never a bad idea to call your women’s health provider office to check on any individual medical considerations. However, it is well understood that skipping your period while using hormonal birth control is safe and effective and that women who do versus women who don’t skip a period or periods show no major differences in their short- or long-term health.
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