Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team
Dr. Sophia Yen, our founder and CEO, talks about how to stop your period when on the birth control pill, patch, or ring. But first, sign up for Pandia Health’s FREE delivery and automatic refills of your birth control!
Because of the hormonal and biological changes caused by birth control pills, it’s safe and practical for most women to stop their periods with the help of the medication. The “period” that happens on birth control is known as a withdrawal bleed, and it’s different than the one that happens when not on the pill.
It doesn’t have a medical purpose, and using birth control can decrease the risk of endometrial and colorectal cancer; using the birth control pill is associated with a 15-20% reduction in colorectal cancer.
One of the inventors of the birth control pill, Dr. John Rock, wanted women to have a period every month on the pill. Two of Dr. Rock’s co-founders questioned why that was necessary. Why not instead have a period every 3 months, every 6 months, or not at all?
But Dr. Rock was insistent that those with uteri bleed every month, because he thought the Catholic Church and women would be more accepting if he kept it at status quo. He won the argument, and as a result, every woman who uses the birth control pill, patch, or vaginal ring has a bleed every month. You can read more about this history in this article.
But, if you care bout decreasing landfill (women use 10,000-13,000 menstrual products in their lives!), if your periods are painful, if they are causing you to miss school or work, or are otherwise affecting your quality of life, it’s time to think about making your #PeriodsOptional using birth control.
Note: If you got your first period less than two years ago, you should talk to your doctor before following these steps. You’re probably still growing, and using medication with estrogen could reduce your final height.
If you’re on the combined (estrogen/progesterone) birth control pill, you’ll notice that in your packs, there are three weeks of hormone pills, followed by one week of sugar pills (also known as placebo pills). During this last week, you get your withdrawal bleed, which is caused by a drop in those hormone levels.
If you want to skip your period, take the three weeks of hormone pills as usual. When you get to the fourth week, go straight to the first week of hormone pills in your next pack instead of taking the sugar pills. The first time you try this, after about three months, you may experience breakthrough bleeding — bleeding that occurs while taking the hormones.
If this happens, STOP taking the hormone pills for five days. During that time, you’ll have a withdrawal bleed. On day six, regardless of whether you’re still bleeding, restart the hormone pills to turn off your period. The days you are off of the hormones will reset your uterus.
The next time, you should be able to have six months before breakthrough bleeding. The time after that, you might be period-free as long as you keep taking active pills. Keep in mind that every woman is different. Some can get period-free immediately, while others have work their way up from 3 months and 6 months. And some have such strong internal hormones that it may take some tinkering to find the right pill to help get to no or fewer periods.
How to Make #PeriodsOptional
With the 1-month vaginal birth control ring, there are actually 35 days worth of hormones in each ring. Because there are less than 35 days in every month, you can just change the ring on the same day every month – maybe the first of the month, your birthday date/day, or whatever day you happen to start it.
Then, if at any time you get breakthrough bleeding AND you have used the ring for at least three weeks in a row before the bleeding, take out the ring for five days. You’ll have that withdrawal bleed, and afterwards, put in a new ring on day six whether or not you are still bleeding.
After that, you may never have any more breakthrough bleeding. Again, every woman is different, and you might be one of the lucky ones who has no bleeds at all, right from the start.
You can use the birth control patch to skip your monthly bleed. But, you should NOT skip bleeds on the patch for more than 12 weeks in a row. The estrogen in the patch builds up in your body, putting you at risk for blood clots and death. So, if you’re on the patch and you want to skip your period for longer than 12 weeks in a row, you must switch to the pill or the ring.
Get #FewerPeriods on the Hormonal IUD, Implant, or Shot
You can make #PeriodsOptional on the hormonal IUD, implant, or shot. However, it is less predictable because each person with a uterus responds differently. On the “regular strength” IUDs (Mirena/Liletta) 20-50% of those with uteri get rid of their monthly bleed and the remaining get lighter periods.
A similar percentage lose their periods in the implant. However many women get irregular bleeds in the implant; 70% of women lose their monthly bleed after their third shot and 30% continue to bleed monthly.
Make sure you ask for enough medication to skip bleeds! If you’re on the pill and skipping bleeds, you’ll need 17 packs per year instead of the usual 13 because you’ll be skipping some of the pills. All insurances should still cover them under the Affordable Care Act.
Just tell your doctor you’re having painful periods or that periods are creating unnecessary blood loss and increasing your risk of endometrial and colorectal cancer. If you or your doctor has any more questions, check out Dr. Yen’s TEDxBerkeley Talk on the bottom of this page as well as our YouTube channel.
Pandia Health delivers your birth control for FREE no matter what state you live in and can write you a new prescription if you live in AZ, CA, CO, FL, TX, or WY! We also take care of transferring existing prescriptions if you need. SIgn up for the birth control delivery brand that womxn trust most and get that #PandiaPeaceofMind 🙂
The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.