One of the best things about being on the Pill is that you know exactly when you’re going to get your period every month. Another great perk: You can choose to just skip it if you want. And although it may seem like you’re going against nature by forgoing your monthly bleed, it’s actually completely fine to ditch the placebo pills and with them, your period.
“Today many women would prefer not to bleed, and it is safe to do so,” Nikki B. Zite, M.D., ob/gyn professor and program director at the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, tells SELF. In fact, the “period” you get on the Pill isn’t even really your period. Withdrawal bleeding (the technical name for your period when you’re on oral BC) between pill packs was only implemented because the companies that first marketed the Pill in early 60s thought it best to closely mimic a woman’s normal cycle. According to the book The Birth of the Pill, it was structured this way in hopes the Catholic church specifically would accept it (it didn’t work). But there’s no medical reason you need to get your period when you’re on the Pill.
Here’s why: Under normal circumstances (sans birth control), each menstrual cycle, your endometrial lining thickens in anticipation of an embryo implanting. “When this pregnancy does not occur, the lining is no longer needed and thus is shed with bleeding,” Alexander Chiang, M.D., assistant clinical professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. The birth control pill works by suppressing ovulation, and it also thins the uterine lining. This means there’s nothing extra to be shed if you don’t become pregnant.
If you want to skip your period on the Pill, Chiang says simply ignore the placebo pills and, instead, start your next pack.
Skipping your period can even be beneficial for some women—besides the obvious control it gives you over scheduling or avoiding your monthly biological burden.”For women who have very painful periods such as with endometriosis, this may reduce or eliminate their discomfort,” Chiang says. And for those women who bleed so much they suffer anemia, skipping their period allows them time to address and treat the underlying cause of their heavy bleeding. Chiang also adds that if you have bad PMS, PMDD, or are undergoing a procedure in the uterine cavity, dipping out on Aunt Flow might be a good move.
Zite even suggests that skipping your period may make the Pill more effective,” as the placebo pills give the ovaries time to try and make a new egg. No placebo, no chance at a new egg.” The first week of active pills is the most important to prevent ovulation, she adds. So by starting a new pack early, you’re eliminating the risk of accidentally starting it late, which increases its risk of failure.
The downside to going period-free? It can cause the endometrial lining to become too thin over time. “The underlying blood vessels may break and bleed, thus causing breakthrough bleeding or spotting that is unscheduled,” Chiang says. Also, if you’re the type that’s paranoid every month until your period finally comes to reassure you you’re not pregnant, skipping may not be ideal for your mental health.
Another wrinkle: Your health insurance might prevent you from refilling your prescription a week earlier, leaving you with no next pack to skip to. You can talk with your doctor about getting a script that allows you to get a three-month to one-year supply.