What to Know About Skipping Periods With Birth Control

By: Dr. Valerie French

It’s normal and healthy to use birth control to have fewer periods, no matter the reason.

When my patients ask me about birth control options, I talk about how each method might affect their periods. And I explain which methods let you control how often you have your period. Not everyone wants to skip periods. But it’s normal and healthy to have fewer periods if you want to.

Some patients tuck this info in their back pocket so they can think about it in the future for travel, military duty, special occasions, or other busy times. Others are ready to start having fewer periods right away.

You may find your overall wellness is better without having to think about your period as often. As an ob-gyn, I don’t think you need to have a “good” reason to skip your period. Just wanting fewer periods is reason enough.

Here’s what you need to know about putting your period on your schedule.

Birth control pills and vaginal rings give you the most control.

Some methods may change your periods, but you can’t control if or when you get a period. With the hormonal IUD, for example, bleeding usually gets heavier in the first months of use and then gets lighter over time. You may eventually stop getting periods. But there’s no guarantee.

Other methods—mainly birth control pills and vaginal rings—let you control how often you have your period. You can use these methods to stop your period entirely, or to schedule when you get a period. I focus on these methods in this article.

There are more methods, such as the birth control patch, that may let you skip or stop periods too. But the research on using these methods for this purpose is not as strong as the research on the pill and the ring. 

"You may find your overall wellness is better without having to think about your period as often." -Dr. Valerie French

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You skip periods by using hormonal birth control every day of the month.

The hormones in vaginal birth control rings and birth control pills prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation. If you get these hormones continuously, you won’t have your period. With the ring, you simply leave it in place for 4 weeks. At the end of week 4, you remove it and insert a new ring.

Although the packaging directs you to remove the ring after 3 weeks, it has enough hormones to prevent pregnancy during week 4. There is good evidence that this is safe and works to prevent pregnancy (and periods) for the entire month.

With birth control pills, what you do depends on how your pills are packaged. Many come in packs with 3 weeks of active pills (that contain hormones). Some also have seven inactive, or placebo, pills to take during week 4. To skip your period, you just start with the active pills from a new pack at the end of week 3.

This means you’ll need refills more often. Not all health insurance plans cover extra refills. But some birth control pills are packaged for having fewer periods. These packs have 4 weeks of active pills—no placebo pills—so you get three pill packs for 3 months at a time.

With this type of pill, you start with the active pills from a fresh pack when you finish those in the previous pack. I often prescribe these pills if you want to skip periods.

Skipping Periods With Birth Control Pills or the Ring is safe.

Skipping periods is safe if you can use birth control pills or a vaginal birth control ring.

Some of my patients worry the lining of their uterus will “build up” if they skip their period. That’s not true. These birth control methods thin the lining of the uterus and there isn’t anything to shed.

It may be surprising, but before widespread birth control, most women didn’t have a period every month. Many women were pregnant or breastfeeding—and so not having a period—for most of their reproductive lives.

Just be sure to see your ob-gyn if your periods are irregular for unknown reasons. You also should see your ob-gyn if you’re not taking birth control and you haven’t had a period in 3 months or more.

Continuous use of birth control pills or rings doesn’t make it harder to get pregnant.

As soon as you stop using birth control pills or rings, your fertility returns. But fertility does decline as you age.

That means that if you use any birth control method for many years, it may be harder for you to get pregnant when you stop. That’s just because you have gotten older, not because your birth control affected your fertility.

You can skip your period as often as you want.

To prevent pregnancy, you need to use active birth control pills or a vaginal birth control ring continuously for at least 3 weeks each month. There are no rules about the number of periods you “should” have.

You can use active birth control pills or a ring 365 days a year. Or you can skip your periods for several months and then choose to have one.

How often you schedule your period can depend on whether you have breakthrough bleeding or spotting. If this happens, it doesn’t mean there is a problem with your birth control or your health. But it can be annoying.

It’s possible to skip your periods for years without breakthrough bleeding. But it’s common to have a little bleeding or spotting if you skip your period for several months.

If you try different intervals, you’ll soon find the time between periods that your body needs to avoid breakthrough bleeding.

Talk with your ob-gyn if you have questions about using birth control to skip your period.

Ob-gyns are open to helping patients skip their periods and can help you resolve any issues. We go through a lot during our reproductive years, including periods. Bleeding can be annoying, but there are ways to make it easier and less frequent.

Talk to your doctor about skipping your period using birth control.

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