Taking Birth Control Continuously

Hi ST I’ve read/heard that when a woman is on birth control she can purposely skip her period by skipping the placebo pills and going straight to the next pack. I heard when a woman does this, there’s still spotting that occurs. Would this spotting be composed of blood? As opposed to other regular fluid spotting? Also, I understand that the period produced by the pill is artificial, or rather, a fake period. I’ve always wanted to try skipping my period (cuz really, who loves them??), but my boyfriend has reservations that I am unsure or not are true. He believes that its good to have this period (despite it being “fake”) because its keeping my body in motion of producing a period. He feels this is important reproductively, so if in the (distant) future we want to go off the pill and start trying, my body shouldn’t have too much trouble adjusting back to a normal period (note: before birth control I always had a regular period, I’ve read those irregular previous to the pill sometimes have trouble getting back into the flow of things due this). Do you know if one has to do with the other? Does having a fake period help later on when adjusting to a normal period off the pill?

Great question!

Many women do take their hormonal birth control continuously to prevent getting a period. As recent as 2003, extended cycle combined oral contraceptives have been on the market to women as a way of having fewer periods every year. You may recognize names like Seasonale or Lybrel.

Many women are already on hormonal contraceptives like a 21 or 24 day cycle of a pill, or the hormonal NuvaRing. Women on monophasic (pills that are all the same dose) birth control have found that skipping their placebo pills (the pills that do not contain hormones) and continuing on to a new pack can effectively allow them to skip their period.

The periods you have when you are taking hormonal contraception are called withdrawal bleeding. That’s because the bleeding is brought on by your body not having those hormones during the placebo week. It is not the bodies natural system. Periods on the pill can be lighter and shorter than not on the pill, because the body is not building up the same materials it would (to prepare for potential childbirth) not on the pill. Having lighter bleeding is another reason women might choose to take hormonal contraceptives.

When you take the pills continuously, you may notice spotting, particularly in the first few months that you take these pills continuously. This is essentially your body adjusting to the new regimen. Spotting does refer to blood – which may appear darker in color, as darker blood tends to be older blood, blood that has turned dark from being in the uterus longer.

Another issue with taking your pills continuously is that you may not know when/if you get pregnant. As the withdrawal bleeding is a sign that you are not pregnant, skipping the bleeding removes that convenient (yet also inconvenient) signal that your pill protected you. Some women handle this by taking pregnancy tests every now and again, which I feel to be a huge pain. I would not recommend skipping your period if you do not take your birth control regularly, on time, with great responsibility.

In the past I have often encouraged women to talk to their doctors prior to making any changes with their birth control. I would still encourage that you do this. Your doctor may or may not be in support of continuous use and you may need to consider the information out there for yourself. If you do a little research on taking birth control continuously you will note that it’s still a relatively new process. Because of that, I am hesitant to say that we know absolutely everything about how it affects the body.

I have not read anything that indicates that doing so is unsafe. It seems to have the same health warnings as taking birth control in general. You may even notice some positive side-effects towards taking birth control continuously – like the cessation of the side-effects of menstruation- menstrual cramps and mood swings.

As far as getting pregnant, everything I’ve read indicates that fertility returns after you stop taking the pills. How frequently you are taking them does not seem to make a difference.

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