Is It Safe To Skip Your Period By Nixing The Placebo Week In Between Birth Control Packs?
Getting your period is never fun, but that time of the month can be especially annoying when it lines up time-wise with a special event or your annual beach vacation. Those of us who take birth control pills as our chosen form of contraception might be tempted to purposely skip that last week of placebo (sugar) pills and slide right into starting the next pack of active birth control pills in order to avoid getting our period altogether. But can we do this without compromising our health? Here’s what you need to know.
How Hormonal Birth Control Pills Work
The hormones in your birth control pills keep you from getting pregnant by preventing your ovaries from releasing an egg. If you weren’t on the pill or another hormonal contraceptive, your ovaries would typically release an egg once per month. This egg would enter your fallopian tube for about 24 hours. If it isn’t fertilized by a sperm, the egg disintegrates, prompting menstruation to begin. The hormones in hormonal birth control also thicken your cervical mucus which makes it harder for sperm to reach one of your eggs, should one be released by your ovaries somehow.
Most birth control pills come in 28-day packs. The packs contain three weeks worth of active pills (the pills that contain the hormones necessary to prevent pregnancy) and one week’s worth of placebo (or sugar) pills. Placebo pills in hormonal birth control are inactive, meaning that they don’t contain any hormones. Placebo pills act as placeholders meant to help you stay on track with your daily routine before your next three-week cycle of active pills begins. During your seven days of placebo pills, you’ll likely experience withdrawal bleeding — this period-like bleeding is completely normal and you’ll still be protected from getting pregnant during this time, just as long as you’re taking your active birth control pills as prescribed.
So, is it safe to nix placebo pills and take two doses of active pills back-to-back to avoid getting your period?
The shorter answer? Yes. The bleeding that you experience when taking the placebo pills in your birth control pill pack isn’t the same as a regular period and it isn’t necessary for your health. Therefore, you can safely avoid or minimize any bleeding while you’re taking hormonal birth control pills by skipping that last week of placebo pills and going straight into your next dose of active pills. If you’re anemic or iron-deficient (both conditions that are worsened by menstruation), or if monthly menstrual bleeding gives you migraines or serious cramps, delaying or avoiding your “period” by skipping placebo pills in your birth control pack could help you manage these symptoms.
If you do decide to delay your period or skip it completely by nixing your birth control’s placebo pills and using two active pill packs back to back, make sure that you talk to your doctor or gynecologist first to get their expert opinion. Skipping placebo pills could cause some unwanted side effects like breakthrough bleeding— bleeding or spotting between periods — during the first few months and it could make it more difficult for you to gauge whether or not you’re pregnant.
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