According to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, most women will have an average of 450 menstrual periods during their lifetime. Additionally, according to a recent survey they conducted, over 80 percent of respondents reported adverse, period-related symptoms including bloating, moodiness, cramps, and irritability.
But there’s good news! Get ready to throw away your pads and tampons, because you can use hormonal birth control to skip your individual periods whenever you need to — or stop menstruating altogether. You can do this on the pill by skipping your placebo pills every month, or you can opt to halt your period entirely with an IUD, injections, implants, and more.
Even if your period isn’t so bad, you can still suppress it for the sake of convenience. So if you’ve been approved for hormonal birth control by your doctor and haven’t had any problems with it, read on! This is what happens to your body when you purposely skip your period.
Breakthrough bleeding can happen
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first: The main problem with skipping your period is breakthrough bleeding, according to a review by the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. That means you might bleed or have spotting at unpredictable times, which can be a huge inconvenience if you’re out on a date, or anywhere you don’t have access to liners or pads.
Fortunately, that might not be an enduring problem, because according to the Mayo Clinic it’s more common to experience breakthrough bleeding during the first few months of menstrual suppression. After that, you shouldn’t have to worry about it as much.
Other than breakthrough bleeding, neither site lists any known disadvantages to skipping your period, other than the side effects you would experience on hormonal birth control anyway. The Mayo Clinic, however, notes that not all doctors think it’s a good idea to skip periods. The Cleveland Clinic researchers acknowledge the same, though they note that that’s due to enduring myths and misperceptions about menstrual suppression.
Ease your endometriosis
According to the Mayo Clinic, endometriosis is defined as a condition in which uterine tissue grows outside of your uterus, on areas such as your ovaries and fallopian tubes. This can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including pain during intercourse, excessive bleeding, pelvic pain before and during your period, nausea, fatigue, digestive issues, and more.
Many of these symptoms get worse during your period, which can make the experience extremely uncomfortable for some women, possibly debilitating for others. Fortunately, according to the experts, suppressing your period can help you manage these and other unpleasant endometriosis symptoms.
Dr. Mark P. Trolice, a board certified reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist, told me that menstrual suppression can help patients who have chronic pelvic pain related to endometriosis. "These patients appear to benefit from the continuous hormonal suppression to reduce endometriosis symptoms," he shared. That’s great news for anyone with the condition, who could benefit immensely from such relief.
Put the clamp on cramps
Anyone who’s prone to cramps knows just how painful they can be, and that no amount of tea and chocolate really help that much. Sure, wine and ibuprofen can come in handy, but at the end of the day, some cramps are just persistent — and they can come back, month after month.
Just why do you get cramps when you get your period? According to Dr. Trolice, "Menstrual cramping occurs from uterine contractions shedding its lining," which makes sense. Your uterus is basically expelling the lining it took a month to build up, so no wonder it can be unpleasant.
But skipping your period can mean skipping your cramps as well, according to Dr. Trolice. He continued, saying that "continuous birth control pills prevent or limit menstrual flow thereby reducing or eliminating uterine contractions to shed the endometrial lining, ergo lessening or avoiding menstrual cramps."
Studies confirm it, so if you’re tired of huddling up to a hot water bottle every month, talk to your doctor about which options might be best for you.
A better mood
According to a study by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, 80 percent of respondents report feeling irritable during their period, 78 percent report feeling fatigued, and 67 percent report feelings of anger. That shows just how much hormones can have an impact on how you feel and react when you’re on your period.
Additionally, while 62 percent of respondents reported an increased desire to be intimate with their partners, 74 percent reported that they missed a chance to get lucky, which can make you even grouchier, on top of everything else. If you find yourself struggling with angst and exhaustion while menstruating, clearly you’re not alone — but it doesn’t have to be that way.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, skipping your period altogether can reduce the moodiness that so often shows up during your cycle. Additionally, you might find that you’re less stressed when you’re out and about, as you don’t have to worry about having pads or tampons on hand to deal with an unexpected period. Smiles all around.
Beat the bloat
Another unpleasant thing that most people have to deal with before or during their period is bloating. According to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (via Hello Giggles), 84 percent of women say that they get bloated at some point during their menstrual cycle. This is due to hormonal fluctuations during that time, which cause your body to retain water as a result, according to the Mayo Clinic.
That’s likely why you see the scale tip upwards, why your pants feel too tight, and why parts of your body swell in some pretty uncomfortable ways the week before and during your period. Fear not! If menstrual bloating is making you miserable, there’s some relief in sight.
According to the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, stopping your period with hormonal birth control can eliminate or at least improve period-related bloating. So you can count on fitting into your skinny jeans all month long.
No more night sweats
Perimenopause comes with a host of symptoms. As Dr. Trolice told me, "In the immediate years preceding menopause, woman begin experiencing symptoms due to hormone deficiency, [like] hot flashes and vaginal dryness. They also can experience irregular and sporadic menses." Additionally, other symptoms can include night sweats, sleep disruptions, mood changes, changes in sexual function, bladder issues, and more, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If you’ve had it with perimenopause, you might be able to keep some of those symptoms in check with menstrual suppression. Dr. Trolice continued, "The birth control pills will provide a synthetic substitute for the deficient hormones and relieve perimenopausal symptoms." So while you can’t stop the ticking of your biological clock, you can make the passage of time a bit more pleasant.
The Association of Reproductive Health Professionals concurs, so if the hot flashes are driving you crazy, talk to your doctor about hormonal birth control and menstrual suppression.
Clearer skin for the win
Remember when you were a teenager, and everyone said you don’t get zits when you grow up? That was, of course, a lie.
Fewer things are more irritating than a breakout, especially when you’re planning for a photo op, anticipating a big date, or preparing for an important job interview. So if you are prone to bad breakouts during your period, you’re a good candidate for hormonal birth control, according to Dermatologist Jennifer Lucas and the Cleveland Clinic. That’s because birth control pills can regulate the hormonal imbalances that cause breakouts to occur, sparing you from pesky pimples.
Gynecologist Linda Bradley is in agreement. She wrote on the Cleveland Clinic website that, "If your face regularly breaks out with pimples during your period, using the pill to avoid menstruating altogether can leave your skin clearer."
You’ll also save money on blemish creams, concealers, and acne treatments — and never have to worry about menstrual-related acne again.
Bye-bye menstrual migraines
Anyone who’s ever had a migraine can tell you how awful they can be. So if you get menstrual migraines, skipping your period can help you avoid them — which can be game changer.
Dr. Laura Mercer, OBGYN, Clerkship Director and Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine told me that for some women, "not having periods may also mean they get to avoid the unwanted symptoms that can sometimes come along with having a period." These symptoms can include PMS/PMDD, cramping, and migraine headaches.
The kind of pain that comes with migraines is significant, even disabling, according to the Mayo Clinic, sometimes lasting for hours or days. For these sufferers, relief is powerful. Dr. Mercer continued, "For these women, menstrual suppression can quite literally be life changing. There is no medical need to have a period while using hormonal birth control methods — and when you stop using these methods, your body returns to its baseline fertility almost immediately for most methods."
Skip your period, and skip the headache, period.
No more intimacy anxiety
Even if you don’t suffer from painful headaches or horrible cramps, your period can still be an unwelcome, unexpected visitor at the most inopportune times. What if you’re planning a weekend getaway with your sweetie, and don’t want to have to deal with your period while away? What if you’re heading to spring break, and you don’t want to stress at the beach? What if your honeymoon is coming up, and you don’t want to be menstruating during the most romantic trip of your life?
You can skip your period for that, too, according to the Cleveland Clinic — and it’s totally safe for your body. Dr. Mercer affirmed this, telling me, "Different women may have different goals or reasons why they want to suppress their periods. For some, not having a period is simply convenient and easy (and allows them to stop worrying about having pads and tampons on hand)."
So it can make a huge difference to leave the period stress at home.
Lower risks of cysts
Although between eight and 18 percent of women will develop ovarian cysts in their lifetime, it’s possible to have one (or several) and not even know it, according to the Cleveland Clinic. And while there are some that you won’t even feel, other cysts are associated with pelvic pain, and can disrupt your daily activities and well-being. Additionally, although the vast majority of these cysts are benign, 13 to 21 percent of them can be malignant.
If you’re one of the people prone to developing painful ovarian cysts, menstrual suppression may be a good way to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Linda Bradley, MD, Vice Chair of the Cleveland Clinic Ob/Gyn & Women’s Health Institute, wrote on their website, "Skipping your period by using birth control pills (or other hormonal methods) can prevent these cysts from forming or help eliminate any you currently have." That’s a sensible solution to the problem.
Stay in the game or on the job
Most experts agree that there’s really only one medical reason to have a period, and that’s if you’re trying to get pregnant. Dr. Sophia Yen, CEO of Pandia Health, a reproductive health specialist, and a reproductive rights advocate, shared that the only reason we get a period in the first place is because we aren’t pregnant.
She continued, "We build the lining of our uterus each month to accept an embryo. If we aren’t trying to get pregnant, then why build that lining and then have to shed the lining and risk endometrial cancer each month?"
So if you find your period impedes your athletic or work performance, you really can just drop it. Dr. Yen also shared that fewer periods aren’t a bad thing. In fact, she explained, fewer periods also means less anemia, a lower risk of some cancers (including endometrial and ovarian cancer), less landfill waste from our tampons, pads, and applicators, fewer days of missed work or school, and even better athletic performance.
Your uterine lining won’t over-thicken
One concern that you may have is that if you skip your period or stop it altogether, your uterine lining will build up unnaturally because you never bleed. It might seem like an intuitive result, as the lining thickens and sheds each month for most menstruating women.
However, that’s not the case, according to the experts. Dr. Erin Saleeby, the chairwoman of OB-GYN at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center, told the The New York Times that continuous birth control prevents the uterine lining from building up.
She said, "You don’t have a proliferation of that tissue, and it’s just not there at the same level that you would quote-unquote ‘need to bleed.’" In other words, your lining won’t over-thicken because it doesn’t build up in the first place.
Dr. Saleeby’s assertion is confirmed in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, so that’s one less thing to worry about if you’re considering menstrual suppression.