Is it safe to skip your period on the pill?
Any women who take the oral contraceptive pill know the drill – there are three weeks worth of active pills per packet, and then one week’s worth of sugar pills. Taking the sugar pills means that each month, you get your period. But what if you want to skip your period? Despite having been on the pill for a long time, I’ve always thought that skipping my period was unsafe. Until I spoke to gynaecologists Dr Peta Wright and Dr Alex Polyakov…
Can skipping your period affect your fertility?
The short answer is, absolutely not! Skipping your period with the pill will only affect your fertility while you’re taking the pill (which is the whole point!), says Dr Wright. In the long term, your fertility is not affected. Dr Polyakov and Dr Wright explain the process in a nutshell:
- Hormones in your pituitary gland stimulate your ovaries to make estrogen and progesterone which cause egg development and ovulation.
- The pill suppresses these hormones and therefore suppresses egg development and ovulation.
- When you stop taking the pill, regardless of whether you skipped it or not, your pituitary glands kick back into gear and you start ovulating as normal.
What happens to the lining that usually sheds if you skip your period?
Dr Polyakov tells me the layer of your uterus (the endometrium) that usually sheds during your period is not as thick when you’re on the pill, so it doesn’t need to shed. Dr Wright continues, “This means that if you continue to support a thin lining (by continuing to take the active pills) there is no need for it to shed.”
Are there exceptions to the rule?
According to Dr Wright, if you are eligible to take the contraceptive pill, you can safely skip your period. Dr Polyakov says that some women find getting their period on the pill reassuring as it signals the absence of unintended pregnancy. “This is important, especially in younger women who may not be very punctual with their pill taking and sometimes miss pills. Other than reassurance of absent unintended pregnancy, periods while on the combined contraceptive pill serve no purpose,” he says.
Why are there conflicting opinions on this topic?
Dr Polyakov thinks the main reason the topic is contentious is because “a large proportion of women as well as health professionals do not have a deep understanding of the natural menstrual cycle.” Dr Wright agrees, saying “Young women are often not properly educated on how their bodies work and how the pill and other contraceptives work.” She also explains that myths and misconceptions tend to filter through groups of friends and family members and continue to be perpetuated despite being ill-informed. She hopes that women seeking information on contraception speak to a GP or gynecologist “to educate them about their bodies and their options, so they have the tools to make the decisions that are best for them.”
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Are there benefits of skipping your period?
The oral contraceptive pill has many benefits, according to Dr Polyakov. “Along with contraception, the pill has other important benefits including reducing blood loss and pain associated with periods as well as reducing the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers. Therefore, for women who are likely to be compliant with daily pill taking it is a great choice and I often recommend it,” he says. When it comes to skipping your period while on the pill, Dr Wright says the main benefit is allowing women to take control and have more freedom in their lives, especially those who suffer from debilitating cramps, anaemia and other menstrual issues.
Do you take the contraceptive pill? What do you think about Dr Wright and Dr Polyakov’s thoughts on skipping your period?