One of the benefits of taking the pill? You don't have to have a period if you don't want one.
While simple to skip, it helps to understand how it all works and why it's possible.
Your menstrual cycle
When you’re not taking hormonal contraception your body has a pattern of changes it goes through each month. You have 4 main hormones that change throughout the month:
- Luteinizing hormone (LH)
- Follicular Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
They work together to thicken the lining of your uterus in the first half of your cycle, to prepare it for a pregnancy. An egg is released around mid-cycle (ovulation) and if this is not fertilized your body sheds the lining - this is the bleeding you get during your period.
When you’re taking the pill, it works a little differently.
Your cycle on the pill
The combined contraceptive pill contains synthetic estrogen and progesterone. In most cases these are consistent in all the pills of your packet. Taking a pill each day means the levels of hormones do not change. When you take the inactive (or ‘sugar’) pills in the packet, there is a drop in both hormones - and this causes the lining of your uterus to shed.
Because the hormone levels have been the same all month, not much lining usually builds up, so periods are often lighter than they would be off the pill. Technically what you have on the pill is not a real period, it’s what we call a withdrawal bleed. The good news? You don’t have to have one at all.
How can I skip my period?
The great thing about the pill for a lot of women is the ability to skip the withdrawal bleed altogether. Instead of having a drop in hormones, skipping the inactive pills means the estrogen and progesterone stay elevated and your lining stays intact. So how do you do it? The easiest way is to cut off the inactive pills as a reminder that when you get to the end of the active pills, you should start the next packet.
The blue pills are active, the pink are inactive (they contain no hormones).
Why would I want to skip my period?
There are many reasons women choose to skip their periods. Some of the main reasons include:
- Convenience. Is there anything worse than having to deal with your period during an exam or on a first date? Maybe you’re going camping and don’t need the stress of having to find solutions to cope out in nature.
- Avoiding period pain. Let's be honest - cramps hurt. The less of them the better.
- Spending less on sanitary items. Pads and tampons add up. Alternative options like menstrual cups and period underwear are amazing but not the right choice for everyone.
Is it safe?
It is! Provided you remember to take your pills everyday it won’t affect how effective your pill is either. Most women can successfully skip a few months in a row before they experience spotting or breakthrough bleeding. It is recommended that if you do get bleeding that you take your sugar pills as you normally would to have a withdrawal bleed. Then you can go back to skipping them again if you like.
I’m still not sure how to do it
That’s what we’re here for! Feel free to talk to your Candor GP about how this can work for you. If you’re taking a pill with varying levels of hormones (eg. Trifeme) or a progesterone only pill, things will be a little different so send us a message and we’ll connect you with our doctors to give you the right advice.
Tailored regimens of combined hormonal contraception. Therapeutic Guidelines Ltd (eTG March 2021 edition).Published December 2020. Amended March 2021