Growing up with a uterus, you’re taught that getting your period is a sign of good health, with the added benefit of relaying that you’re not pregnant. But periods are costly, sometimes painful, and annoying at best. While people have been skipping periods by taking hormonal birth control for years, many still think of it as a “cheat”—with potentially harmful effects. But that’s not the case: Science has confirmed time and again that it is perfectly healthy to purposefully avoid your period, and that doing so may even have some health benefits.
How to skip your period using hormonal birth control
Traditionally, oral contraceptives come in a pack with a pill for every day of your entire cycle, including “active” pills for most of the cycle that contain estrogen-progestin, and a series of “inactive” pills which don’t contain hormones, but which you take to keep in the habit of taking a pill every day. You’ll get some withdrawal bleeding while you take the inactive pills, which will mimic a monthly period.
But people have long skipped their period by simply skipping the inactive pills and starting a new pack as soon as the active pills run out. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that the ritual of inducing monthly withdrawal bleeding is a “historic holdover from the development of the combined OCP to mimic a more ‘natural’ cycle, and is not necessary for health.”
Today, there are more options than ever when it comes to birth control (a fact recently covered in our series The State of Your Birth Control), and indeed, those that contain hormones can often be used to delay or put a stop to your period. Here are some of your other options:Nuvaring, the vaginal ring can be used continually, swapping it out every three to five weeks as prescribed. Constant use will delay or stop your period. Hormonal IUDs like Mirena, Liletta, Kyleena, and Skyla often have the side effect of stopping your period entirely. These IUDs all have varying levels of hormones, with Mirena and Liletta having the highest dose. While all hormonal IUDs can lessen the intensity of periods over time, the higher the dose of hormones, the more effective the IUD will be at reducing or eliminating your period. Hormonal shots like Depo-Provera are also effective at stopping periods, with 50-75% of women reporting no periods after a year of consistent use. Implants like Norplant have a similar effect one to three years after implantation.
Beware of menstruation hacks that don’t work
Myths about natural ways to stop periods run rampant, but the methods rarely work. Worse, these methods can cause side effects of their own, making them risky to try. Drinking apple cider vinegar is often cited as a way to delay your period, but a 2013 study shows that doing so actually has the opposite effect—and as an added bonus, it can be really rough on your teeth, mouth, and throat. Eating finely ground lentils has also been suggested as a way to postpone your period, but no research has ever borne this folk remedy out. As an added insult, it’s likely you’d be stuck with both your period and increased flatulence.
The only safe way to postpone or stop your period is through the use of hormones in consultation with your doctor.
Are there risks to skipping your period?
Obviously, the biggest risk of skipping your period is that it might be harder to know if you are pregnant, which might mean delaying prenatal care or waiting too long to exercise your options. Most of the methods that postpone or stop periods are highly effective at preventing pregnancy, but none are 100% effective.
While on birth control, if you experience nausea, headaches, breast tenderness or fatigue, it might be worth taking a pregnancy test.
Sometimes people on hormonal birth control experience “breakthrough bleeding” mid cycle, which doesn’t have health risks, but can catch you unexpectedly.
While skipping your period due to hormonal birth control is safe, not getting a period without taking those hormones is something you want to see your doctor about. It’s a condition called amenorrhea, and while it isn’t life threatening, it can have long term effects on fertility, bone health, and cardiovascular health, or could be a symptom of another health issue.
Are there benefits to skipping your period?
If you’re someone who experiences painful periods and uncomfortable premenstrual syndrome, skipping your period means being able to skip all of those effects—headaches, cramps, skin breakouts, etc. Some people even experience anemia due to heavy bleeding on their period, so preventing the cycle may have a real benefit for them.
Studies have shown using hormonal birth control lowers your risks of ovarian and uterine cancer, and skipping your period may lower your risk of developing ovarian cysts.
Mostly, skipping your period will mean more stress free vacations; more uninhibited sexy times, saving substantial the funds you’d spend on tampons, pads, and cups; and being unburdened by the additional labor of managing your body bleeding every single month.