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Periods on the pill

We explore the potential side effects of skipping your period while on the pill.

Women have an estimated 450 periods during their lifetime and for the majority of us, that monthly ‘friend’ or ‘visitor’ isn’t exactly greeted with open arms. The thought of not having to worry about pads, tampons, or painkillers may sound tempting, but the question remains… Are periods on the pill necessary?

To find out the answer, let’s first take a look at a ‘normal’ menstruation cycle.

Menstruation cycle 101

When you’re not on the pill or any other hormonal birth control, your menstrual cycle is regulated by natural hormones produced in the pituitary gland. Each cycle, your uterus lining thickens and blood flow increases in preparation for receiving a fertilised egg. If you don’t fall pregnant, the uterus lining releases the extra blood and goes back to its normal state. This shedding is what you know as your period.

Period on the pill – is it real?

The pill has a small amount of man-made oestrogen and pregestin hormones. These hormones usually work by stopping ovulation.

So, this may come as a surprise, but the monthly bleeding you experience while on the pill is not actually menstrual bleeding at all. It’s a symptom of short-term hormone deprivation, also known as withdrawal bleeding. In fact, the menstrual cycle women experience while on the pill is completely man made. The 28 day cycle was created because scientists assumed women would feel more comfortable if the pill mimicked their natural cycle.

This means delaying your ‘period’ when you’re on the pill is simply a matter of skipping the sugar or placebo pills and starting the next packet straight away.

Is it safe to skip my period?

Most health professionals say it is quite safe, and compare skipping periods on the pill to other natural things that stop menstruation, like breastfeeding and pregnancy.

But be mindful that skipping the pill may result in breakthrough bleeding for some people, and experts advise having your period every few months to avoid it.

If you’re thinking about using the pill to skip your period, speak with your GP first to find out what the best approach is for you. And if you experience a lot of breakthrough bleeding or spotting, raise this with your doctor as you may need to go back to a regular cycle.

Are there any benefits of skipping periods?

There are some studies which suggest skipping your period could result in reduced menstrual symptoms, such as headaches, tiredness, bloating and menstrual pain. While this may sound like great news for women who suffer physically and emotionally from these symptoms, always discuss your options with your GP before making any changes to your contraception method.

Learn more about your health on Health Brief.

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