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Is It OK to Skip Your Period with Hormones?

Is skipping your period bad for you? Or is it OK?

By
Lissa Rankin, MD

With the advent of extended cycle contraception (continuous birth control pills such as Seasonale), lots of women are talking about whether or not to have periods.  It’s such a juicy topic, I wanted to share with you some thoughts, in case you’re one of those women trying to figure out whether to bleed or not to bleed.

Are Periods Good or Bad?

The only reason you get a period when you’re on the Pill is because those who developed it back in the 1960’s assumed women would prefer to have periods so they would know they weren’t pregnant.

So what’s the deal? Is it good or bad to get periods? Should we have more? Less? Well, it depends. If you’re not on any type of hormonal birth control and you’re not pregnant, nursing or menopausal, it’s not good to skip periods.  But if you’re skipping periods because you’re taking hormones, that can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it.

Here are a few of the common questions women ask me regarding using birth control to skip periods.

Is it Natural To Skip Periods With Hormones?

Well, no. There’s nothing natural about the birth control pill, the Depo-Provera shot, or the Mirena IUD.  Menstrual cycles while on birth control are not the same as non-hormonal cycles the body has naturally.  If you’re not taking birth control, skipping periods can cause overgrowth of the lining of the uterus and lead to problems.  But while taking continuous hormones such as Seasonale, skipping periods results from shrinkage of the uterine lining, rather than unshed overgrowth, so there is no need for a monthly period.

Why Do You Have Periods When You’re on The Pill?

The only reason you get a period when you’re on the Pill is because those who developed it back in the 1960’s assumed women would prefer to have periods. Why? So they would know they weren’t pregnant. So they would feel “natural.”  Now, pharmaceutical companies are rethinking things, since many women surveyed say they would love to skip periods.

How Does the Pill Work?

When you’re taking the Pill, the period that comes during the placebo week of birth control is the body’s natural withdrawal from taking the hormones.  By continuing to take the hormones instead of the placebo, the body does not withdraw from the hormones and no period occurs.  This is different than missing menses when not taking birth control.  While taking continuous birth control, the lining of the uterus gets thin and periods, when they do occur, are often very light.

Why Would I Choose to Suppress My Menses?

Most patients choose this regimen purely for convenience, to avoid the nuisance of menses and to fit with their lifestyles.  However, OB/GYNs have been recommending this regimen for many years for the treatment of endometriosis, PMS, menstrual migraines, anemia, painful periods, mittelschmerz (painful ovulation), ovarian cysts, and heavy periods.

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