Great question! There are definitely some times when your period gets in the way more than others…vacations are a great example!
The most common birth control pills are combination pills (containing estrogen and progestin) and have 21-24 active pill days, followed by 4-7 non-hormonal “placebo” pill days which is when you get your period. To skip a period, you would just skip the placebo pills in your pack, and immediately start the next month’s pack of pills the day after you take the last active pill of your current pack. When you do this, your body doesn’t have the usual “withdrawal bleed” you would typically get when you take your hormone-free pills.
It is perfectly safe to do this from time to time when you would like to avoid having a period for a special event or trip. This is because the bleeding that happens when using hormonal birth control is not the same as your natural cycle. Natural menstruation occurs as hormone levels in your body drop when pregnancy does not occur after ovulation. This drop in hormones is what triggers your uterus to shed its lining, and you get your period. The hormones in birth control pills are similar to your body’s natural hormones and it causes your body to mimic this cycle. During the week you use placebo pills which do not contain hormones, your body experiences a similar drop in hormones that triggers bleeding, but this is considered “withdrawal bleeding.”
If you don’t love having to worry about your period every month, Mirena IUD might be a great birth control option for you! With a Mirena, it is most common that your period will stop during the time you have it. Mirena is over 99% effective and lasts for up to 6 years, but it can be removed at any time if you decide you would like to get pregnant.
It is important to note that skipping a period is not possible for all birth control pills. Progestin-only pills, for example, have no placebo pills so you are not able to skip the “break.”
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