Aside from the monthly reassurance that you’re not knocked up, getting your period sucks. The hassle of carrying tampons, enduring painful cramps, and dealing with hormonal acne is enough to make any reasonable woman ask “Can we not?”
In fact, in a 2018 survey of 1,000 women by Pandia Health, a women’s telemedicine site, a majority of participants said they’d straight-up shut down their periods for good if they could do so safely. As it turns out, thanks to your never-not-magical birth-control pill, you can. Yes, it’s safe. Yes, you can do it as long as you want. Yes, a lot of your friends are already on board. Here’s how to catch up.
How Birth Control Can Squash Your Periods
Let’s take it back to health class: Your ovaries naturally produce progesterone and estrogen, hormones that help keep the lining of your uterus in place, making it a cushy spot for an embryo to chill, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine. But if no sperm hook up with your eggs, your ovaries stop making those uterine-stabilizing chemicals and the lining sheds. Cue tampon being passed under stall door.
When you’re on birth control containing synthetic progesterone (and oftentimes estrogen), your hormone level stays steady. If you’re using combined oral contraception (aka the pill), the vaginal ring, or the patch, this keeps your uterine lining in place until you hit your placebo week or remove your ring or patch during week four of your cycle. “When levels dip, the lining destabilizes and you get your period,” says Dr. Minkin. But if you continue to take your daily dose, your period never happens.
What to Know Before Hacking Your Hormones
As long as your contraception isn’t causing breast tenderness, headaches, or nausea—side effects that could be amplified by continuous use—the biggest issue you could face is breakthrough bleeding or spotting (see below), says ob-gyn Leah Millheiser, MD. Still, before you make any adjustments to the way you use your birth control, talk to your doc to avoid complications or an unplanned pregnancy.
But what about fertility—don’t you need to get your period to keep that situation in good shape? “Some people like to get their period to know they’re not pregnant, but there’s no other health benefit of having it,” says Dr. Minkin. Boom.
Here’s how to dismiss your period this month—or forever—if you're on...
Just skip the placebo week in your pack, or opt for a pack without one altogether (like Seasonale or Seasonique). An important exception: If you’re on the progestin-only mini pill, you can’t choose to skip your period using birth control, says Dr. Millheiser. This form of the pill doesn’t have an inactive pill week, meaning you have to take a dose every single day.
You already know you have to slap on a new one every week for three weeks. But instead of going patchless on week four, go ahead and pop on a new sticker. Done and done.
The Vaginal Ring
Kind of like the patch, this stops working when you remove it during the last week of your cycle. To keep those period-blocking hormones flowing, don’t replace your vaginal ring until after day 28. And yes, it’s still effective during week four, says Dr. Minkin.
“Some people like to get their period to know they’re not pregnant, but there’s no other health benefit.”
Although they’re not quite as speedy, this type of birth control could get rid of your period over the long term, says Dr. Minkin, because progestin-based IUDs deliver hormones directly to your uterine lining. “You might get your period and have breakthrough bleeding for the first four to six months,” she says. But after that, up to 20 percent of women stop getting their periods within a year, depending on the brand you use.
The Depo-Provera shot, a progestin injection administered by a nurse or doctor every three months, can also keep your period at bay, says Dr. Minkin. Most users didn’t get it at all after one year of use, according to Pfizer’s study of the drug.
What to do when stuff goes wrong...
Ditching your period isn’t all sunshine and white underwear. Here’s how to deal with:
A period ambush is annoyingly common when you start bailing on your usual rhythm, says Dr. Minkin. But taking your placebo pills every three or four months can help.
Make sure your doc writes “take continuously” on your prescription so you can refill it whenever and insurance should cover it.
“If you take your pill daily, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get pregnant,” says Dr. Minkin. But if you start feeling bloated or queasy out of the blue, take a test ASAP.