It’s summer time! That means vacations, swimming and perhaps, periods coming at inconvenient times. Have no fear! It is possible to skip or reschedule periods!
Before we get started, if this is something you are interested in, I encourage you to talk to your clinician or healthcare provider before you skip your period. Your health care provider is most familiar with you and the medications you are taking.
That being said, there are things everyone should know about the process of scheduling/skipping your period. If you are already on the birth control pill and been taking it for a few cycles, then you should be able to skip your period. Also note, this blog post is focused solely on using combined oral contraceptives, which is a type of birth control pill, to reschedule periods. This type of pill uses a combination of hormones (estrogen and progestin) in order to prevent pregnancy.
Many packages of birth control pills contain 21 hormone pills (also known as active pills) followed by 7 pills, which contain no hormones (also known as placebo or spacer pills). This means a person taking birth control pills usually takes 21 days of hormone pills followed by 7 days of no hormone pills. The period usually happens during the 7 days of no hormone pills. Many of the newer pill formulations have more active pills and fewer no hormone pills, for example 24 active pills and 4 placebos.
When someone is taking birth control pills, the period that occurs during the placebo pills is technically called withdrawal bleeding. Women bleed during this week because they did not take the pills containing hormones and so their hormonal levels drop. A woman is still protected against pregnancy during withdrawal bleeding as long as she starts her next pack of pill on time. To avoid any confusion, we will just refer to withdrawal bleeding as a period.
To skip your period:
For this example, we will use a pack of birth control with 21 active pills and 7 inactive pills. However, the same principles apply to other formulations. When you get to the end of the hormone pills in a pack of birth control (i.e. the first 21 pills), skip the inactive pills (i.e. 7 placebo pills) and begin the next set of active pills. Usually this means starting a completely new pack of pills. Skipping the inactive pills postpones menstruation. Within this new pack of pills you continue taking active pills at the same time each day. Essentially, you will take 42 active pills in a row (21 active pill from the first pack and 21 active pills from the second pack). During this process, be prepared for spotting or light period-like bleeding. This can sometimes happen when you change your pill cycle. As long as you are not skipping any active pills, you are still protected against pregnancy.
Many women are concerned that skipping withdrawal bleeding is harmful. However, there is a ton of research out there to show that birth control is more effective when you limit the inactive pill interval. That is the idea behind extended-cycle birth control pills that promise only four periods a year. So there is no adverse medical impact of skipping your period with birth control. In fact, some women may experience fewer migraines or a reduced risk of anemia.
If this has sparked your interest and you are interested in having lighter periods or no periods ever, talk to your clinician about the different options available. There are also lots of birth control methods available out there other than the pill, so explore them!
Enjoy your summer!
Resources consulted for this blog:
Hatcher, R. A., Trussell, J., & Nelson, A. L. (2011). Contraceptive technology (20th ed.) Ardent Media, Inc.