Skipping Your Period While On The Pill Is Totally Safe

You are not doing your body a disservice.

30/05/2016 3:18 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
We feel you.

Australian women have had access to the contraceptive pill for more than 50 years, yet there still exists profound confusion around how it works.

Case in point: the concept of getting your period every month while on The Pill when actually, there is no real need or health benefit to it.

"By taking the contraceptive pill you are suppressing ovulation. So the only reason you are getting 'a period' -- or more correctly a withdrawal bleed -- is because you have ceased taking the active pills," Dr Elizabeth Farrell, from Jean Hailes For Women's Health told The Huffington Post Australia.

Basically, the monthly bleed that you experience while on The Pill is not a real period.

"The myth that a woman has to bleed each month otherwise the blood will build up inside is a total misunderstanding of what periods are," Farrell said.

Firstly, by taking The Pill, the lining of the uterus becomes much thinner as it does not grow as much. And secondly, the body doesn't know when you are going to stop taking the active pills and if you were, for instance, to stop tomorrow, you would most likely experience a withdrawal bleed, which is the shedding of the lining of the uterus (endometrium) though, not a natural period.

As Dr Susan Davis, professor of Women's Health at Monash University puts it, "the pill switches off a woman's ovaries".


"The 21 days of active pills followed by 7 days of 'sugar' pills is arbitrary. Basically a woman can take the pill for weeks and choose when she wants to have a bleed. This is the basis for many new pill regimens such as Yaz Flex," Davis told HuffPost Australia.

A 2008 study published in Dove Medical Press looked at the extended and continued use of the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) and found that "Continuous OCPs are a safe and reliable form of birth control".

On top of that, researchers found that continuous use of OCPs lessened both menstrual bleeding and some menstrual symptoms.

"In principle, women on the contraceptive pill should not have any PMS at all, due to the fact they are taking the same pill, with the same amount of hormones every single day. Girls and women with endometriosis, for instance, are put on The Pill to help with these symptoms and are encouraged to take continuous active pills," Farrell said.

Experts agree if you are still getting pain, discomfort or cramping while on The Pill, it is important to see your doctor or GP.

While extended and continued use of OCPs is favourable for many women, Davis said it is important they have a break from the active pills every few months.

The myth that a woman has to bleed each month otherwise the blood will build up inside is a total misunderstanding of what periods are.

"Otherwise they are likely to develop breakthrough vaginal bleeding," Davis said.

Though, experts agree breakthrough bleeding does not demonstrate any endometrial abnormalities.

​In the United States, women have the option of two types of oral contraceptive pills (OCP) that contain only the active pills which they take 365 days a year, opting to have a bleed only a few times a year.

In Australia, Yaz Flex has recently become available which is designed to delay a monthly period for up to four months.

As Dr Amanda Newman from Jean Hailes for Women's Health explains, "one of the major benefits of The Pill is convenience".

"Whether you are going camping or taking exams you can choose to skip the sugar tablets for a few days, weeks or months in order to have the withdrawal bleed when it suits you."

The takeaway? Don't feel like you're doing your body a disservice by skipping your period while on The Pill.

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