When it comes to stopping your period, pregnancy and menopause are two pretty surefire ways to make it happen. But if growing a human is not in your immediate future or you’re decades away from hot flashes and mood swings, you might be wondering: Does birth control stop your period?
Well, we have some good and not-so-good news for you. The good news is some forms of birth control, like the hormonal IUD, combo pill, shot, vaginal ring, or implant, might be able to decrease or even stop your period. The less good news is that nothing is ever guaranteed, especially when it comes to reproductive health.
Yes, some birth control methods are more likely to give you a nonexistent or barely-there period over time, but regardless of the birth control type, some people will continue to get their period, no matter what.
“Although there is no one form of hormonal contraception that uniformly stops all uterine bleeding for all people, there are several forms of contraception that often cause secondary amenorrhea, when you typically get a monthly period and then stop getting it for at least three months,” Allison Walsh, MD, FACOG, an ob-gyn at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, tells SELF.
With that in mind, SELF asked experts to answer common questions about all of the ways birth control might affect your period.
Is it safe to skip your period? | How does birth control work to stop your period? | How long does it take for birth control to stop your period? | Does starting on birth control during your period stop it immediately? | Will taking two pills stop your period? | When will you get your period after stopping birth control?| Can birth control regulate your period?
First, is it safe to skip your period?
The short answer is, yes, you can safely skip your period by either ditching the placebo week and going directly to a new pack of pills, ring, or patch. Some people may naturally just stop getting their period over time while using certain forms of birth control.
The long answer, however, is a bit more involved. First, the period you get on hormonal birth control is not even really your period, it’s actually withdrawal bleeding, according to the Mayo Clinic. During a menstrual cycle without hormonal birth control, your endometrial lining thickens in anticipation of an embryo implanting. If pregnancy does not occur, your body sheds this lining, and you get your period. Since hormonal birth control works by suppressing ovulation (and they also cause the uterine lining to thin), there’s nothing extra to shed if you don’t become pregnant. The bleeding is simply your body’s response to stopping the hormones.
If your period lessens or goes away completely while taking hormonal birth control, it’s nothing to worry about. As we mentioned, if you use a combination pill, patch, or ring, skipping the placebo week and moving right to the next month is generally safe. However, it can cause the endometrial lining to become thinner over time, leading to spotting or breakthrough bleeding. Plus, there’s the minor issue of never really knowing if you’re pregnant or not, which can wreak havoc on your mental health if you’re taking birth control for pregnancy prevention (rather than only for managing a period) and worry a lot. To help put your mind at ease, and ensure you’re going about this the right way, talk with your doctor before making any changes. They can help you decide if delaying menstruation is the best option for you.