It's all about which type of birth control you choose.
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 Taraneh Shirazian, M.D., an ob-gyn NYU Langone. “And if you’re on medication, it’s completely safe.”
In fact, researchers from the University of Oregon found that 17 percent of 1,324 surveyed women on hormonal contraceptives including the patch, pill, and vaginal ring use them to alter their bleeding patterns.
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 do it using:
Oral contraceptive pills (OCP) typically come in four-week packs, which means the first three weeks of pills 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 put off 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.
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.
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.
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.