I was talking about birth control with my doctor, and she said that some types might stop me from getting my period? Isn’t that bad for you?
Great question! This is a common concern when choosing a form of birth control. Since many people are used to a missed period signaling that something is off, changes can be alarming. A lot of people also worry that not getting a period is unhealthy. They may think this because skipping periods prevents your body from shedding its uterine lining. However, hormonal birth control changes the normal menstrual cycle to prevent pregnancy, eliminating the need for monthly bleeding.
The menstrual cycle is the process by which your body prepares itself to become pregnant, so it makes sense that birth control disrupts it!
You get your period because your uterus builds up a lining to prepare for a fertilized egg. Your ovaries release an egg about midway through your cycle, during a process called “ovulation.” If the egg does not become fertilized, your body sheds both the egg and uterine lining about 14 days later. This is your period. Hormonal birth control disrupts this process by using synthetic versions of hormones produced by your body. This prevents pregnancy by preventing ovulation and/or stopping your uterus from building up a lining.
Birth control with the hormones estrogen and progestin — such as the pill, patch, or ring — try to simulate the menstrual cycle by building in a “period week.”
This is the week when you take placebo pills, or remove your ring or patch. This makes hormone levels in your body drop, which causes “withdrawal” bleeding similar to your period. Inconvenient time? It’s totally safe to start your next pack, ring, or patch right away to dodge the crimson wave. Since you’re not ovulating, there’s no need to bleed.
Bleeding patterns can be more unpredictable with birth control methods that contain only progestin, such as the implant, hormonal IUD, and shot. Some people experience irregular bleeding or spotting, while some lose their period altogether. Every body is different, so it’s hard to predict how yours will react before you try it.
If you feel more comfortable getting a “period” every month to mirror your natural cycle, that’s great info to know when choosing a birth control method. However, changing bleeding patterns and vanishing periods are totally normal on hormonal birth control, and some people prefer it! If you’re interested in birth control, make an appointment with your health care provider to talk about your options and get started with a method that is right for you.
If you’re 10-22 years old in NYC, you can call the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center at (212) 423-3000 for confidential health care at no cost to you!