Is it safe to skip your period on the pill? More young women opting not to menstruate
Having Aunt Flo make an unexpected visit can really make you want to skip your period - but is it safe to do so?
Four Nine spoke to Dr Ilana B. Addis, who is the Director of the University of Arizona's Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, to get the lowdown.
Is it safe to skip your period?
It is safe to skip your period, but ensure you consult your healthcare practitioner prior to doing so.
In the US, doctors generally say it’s safe to run multiple pill packets back-to-back. However, across the pond in the UK, the NHS recommends that you avoid taking more than two packets in a row.
Speaking to Four Nine, Dr Addis clarifies: "monthly menstruation is not physiologically necessary."
Do we need to menstruate at all?
Dr Addis says that the break period in a pill is only there because when the doctors initially asked women whether they would prefer to still have a period, they said yes.
This was in the days before a cheap at-home pregnancy test could do the job of confirming they weren’t pregnant. Of course, this is an important development in making women reconsider the need for periods.
"In general, I think views are changing really rapidly, Dr. Elizabeth Micks corroborated to NPR. "That need to have regular periods is not just in our society anymore."
In actual fact, the period that you have when you’re taking oral contraceptives isn’t really a natural period at all.
The way the majority of contraceptive pills work is by suppressing ovulation so you don't release an egg to be fertilised. And, also, to prevent the uterine lining from growing as much as it would without the pill.
What you’re actually experiencing during your pill-free days is a withdrawal bleed. That is, your body reacting to a drop in synthetic oestrogen levels, which causes the lining of the womb to shed.
What are the benefits of skipping a period?
It’s easy to see why it’s tempting to just bin them off. Let's be honest, they’re not exactly anyone’s favourite time of the month. And research has estimated that the average woman will spend a total of $25,000 on having periods over the course of her lifetime, once sanitary products, pain relief, and underwear are factored in.
Perhaps even more excitingly, cutting out periods also means you cut out many of the associated symptoms. No PMS, no achy boobs, no bloating, no headaches. Basically, it has the potential to get rid of all the rubbish stuff and save you money at the same time. Dr Addis agreed that in many cases, the pros outweigh the cons:
"Suppression of menstruation has medical and personal benefits for many women, and is cost-effective compared to having a monthly cycle."
Are there any side effects of skipping the pill?
So are there any side effects? Well, the main one is breakthrough bleeding. Although this can decrease the longer you spend without a period.
According to Planned Parenthood USA, who support the idea that there should be no problem skipping for an extended period of time, this should go away after about six months period-free. So while it might be best not to chuck out those period pants just yet, rest assured that you should be able to at some point.
Fortunately, it seems there is no evidence that fertility is likely to be affected by running pill packets together either. Although longer term studies are yet to take place.
If anything, all of the confusion around this issue only serves to highlight the fact that most of us know embarrassingly little about what the pill actually does and how it works. But with more young women seeing that they could be saving themselves a whole lot of bother, it seems like this is a trend that will continue to grow.
At the end of the day, all we can do is give ourselves the advice we would give our friends - to listen to the experts and listen to our bodies when it comes to judging whether it's safe to skip your period. If it works for you, go ahead.