Does Birth Control Stop Your Period, and If So, How Can I Make That Happen?

·11 min read
does birth control stop your period
Does Birth Control Stop Your Period? Margie Rischiotto/James W. Porter

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No one enjoys having their period—that’s pretty much the facts. (If it’s a fun time for you, pls send tips.) Although for some, having your cycle each month gives you the necessary peace of mind to know you're not pregnant atm. For others, it can come with debilitating pain that's not often taken seriously enough. At the very least, your period is just plain annoying, especially when it gets in the way of travel, parties, weddings, and every life event in between.

If you currently reside in the "please get rid of my period ASAP" camp, one of the ways to stop your period or make it much lighter is hormonal birth control (and there are many types of BC beyond just the pill for you to try). “Many people do want lighter periods or for them to disappear entirely, and for those people, there are lots of options—all of which contain progesterone, and some of which also contain estrogen, hormones that regulate cyclic uterine bleeding,” explains Roxanne Unger, MD, an ob-gyn at NYU Langone Health.

Which forms of birth control lighten your period, and which ones stop it altogether? And is it actually safe to skip your period sometimes? We tapped some medical experts to help. Read on to understand which birth control methods may help your period get just a lil bit lighter and which may help your period pull a much-needed disappearing act in the short term.

Types of Birth Control That Can Make Your Period Lighter

So maybe you still wanna know she's there, but would love to minimize the cramps, bloating, and monthly tampon budget that comes along with your period? Here are some of your best options. (FYI, with these methods you can also opt to press pause on your period altogether every once and a while, or every month if you want.)

Combination birth control pills

Combination birth control pills are probably what you’re used to seeing most (ya know, the tiny plastic packs of four weeks of pills with multiple different colors) because they’re the most commonly prescribed type of BC, according to Planned Parenthood. The combo of the hormones estrogen and progesterone stops ovulation and stops the uterine lining from growing each month since it’s not prepping for a fertilized egg, says Sameena Rahman, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of ob-gyn at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and women's health expert for holistic period care line rhythm.

When it comes time for your period each month, which arrives when you take the last week of the pill pack (aka the placebo pills), you experience a “withdrawal bleed” because your body isn’t getting the hormones that week—you’re just keeping your body on track and mimicking a regular cycle. Since you’re not releasing an egg and not shedding as much of your uterine lining as you usually would during this period, you won’t have that seven-day-long bleed you might have had in the past. “It’s not a true shedding of the lining because with the pill, you are not building the lining, so that’s why most pills allow for less lengthy and lighter flow,” explains Dr. Rahman.

Good news if you already had a light period to begin with: It’ll probably just stay light, but if you had heavy, painful periods, you’re in for much lighter ones, adds Dr. Unger. More good news if you don’t wanna have a period every single month: You can totally skip taking the week placebo pills at the end of the month and go right to taking the next pack (we’ll get into more safety recs on that later).

Birth control patch

The patch is a very similar deal to the combination pill in that it contains both estrogen and progesterone, will prevent pregnancy mainly by stopping ovulation, and can help tame super heavy bleeding each month, says Dr. Unger. Are you someone who tends to forget to pop your daily BC pill and also wants your period to be lighter and/or nonexistent? The patch may be for you. Typically you have to change the patch on your skin every week and you don’t wear a patch for the fourth week or “placebo week,” but if you wanna stop your period that month, you can skip the patch-free week and move along to your next patch after just three weeks, Dr. Unger says.

Birth control ring

Going with the vaginal birth control ring is a lot like the patch: Estrogen and progesterone keep you from ovulating and help deter sperm from traveling toward the uterus. You pop the ring in for somewhere between three and five weeks (timing depends on the brand you decide on), and then take it out for one full week if you choose to have a regular monthly cycle. Again, because you’re not releasing an egg, your uterine lining will be thinner and your period will be lighter anyway. But if you wanna skip your period, you can take one ring out after the first three-to-five weeks and go straight to the next ring, bypassing the ring-free week, says Dr. Unger.

Types of Birth Control That Can Make You Skip Your Period Altogether

If you'd had enough of bleeding monthly in general (we hear that), these are some forms of birth control that may result in a slow fade of your period.

The progesterone-only minipill

Taking the “minipill” (called that bc it’s cute and tiny) is a slightly different story than the above methods, because it only contains the hormone progesterone. “These may or may not prevent ovulation, depending on the individual user as well as the type of progesterone, relying instead on progesterone's ability to change the environment of the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes and making fertilization of the egg more difficult,” explains Dr. Unger.

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Some of the possible formulations you can get a prescription for are norethindrone and drospirenone, and in general, they will make your period lighter—talk to your doc about the right one for you. You also could experience spotting in between methods with the minipill, Dr. Unger points out, because they don’t contain the hormone estrogen that helps to stabilize the uterine lining. But if you take them every month, there’s a good chance you can regularly skip your period, she adds.

Hormonal IUD

The best part of an IUD is that you never have to think about it and it can last you literally years after it's inserted. If you choose a hormonal, progesterone-containing IUD like Mirena or Liletta, it’ll prevent the uterine lining from growing and therefore from shedding, so you’ll have a super light flow each month, explains Dr. Rahman. (There’s another type, the copper IUD, which doesn’t contain hormones but may actually make your period heavier and cause increased cramps.)

Depending on which brand of progesterone-only IUD you go with, it can last you between three and eight years, according to Dr. Unger: “Generally speaking, the higher the amount of progesterone, the longer the IUD lasts and the better your chances of a light to non-existent period.” A copper IUD would last you even longer, from 10 to 12 years, per the Cleveland Clinic, but it won’t have the same period-lightening/disappearing abilities that the hormonal IUD does.

Hormonal birth control shot

Another method that can help your period vanish is the hormonal birth control shot, mostly commonly known by the brand name Depo-Provera. Basically, you get the progesterone-only shot from a medical provider every three months to prevent ovulation (your iCal app is about to be your BFF), and over time the uterine lining thins, Dr. Unger says. Because of that, your periods will likely get lighter or even disappear, she adds.

Can You Safely Skip a Period?

The short answer: Most def. Here’s a good rule to remember: “If it’s safe for you to take the pill, chances are it’s safe for you to skip your cycle, and patients do it often,” Dr. Rahman says. Of course whether your period ends up lightening or stopping depends on the type of pill, ring, patch, or IUD you pick, so the best thing you can do is chat with your ob-gyn or with a healthcare provider at a sexual health clinic to find the right option for your lifestyle and health history.

Another bonus to skipping a period each month with certain types of hormonal birth control is because less bleeding each month equals a thin uterine lining, which is safe and actually healthy, according to Dr. Unger. “It’s the way your uterus looks after you’ve had a period when you’re off birth control, which is a perfectly safe state of being,” she says. Taking hormonal birth control pills specifically may lower your risk of getting uterine cancer by keeping the uterine lining thin and healthy, research published in 2021 shows.

Why You May Actually Want Your Period to Stop

  • It can curb awful period pain. For people with endometriosis, which involves uterine tissue growing outside the uterus and causing a sh*t ton of pain and cramps, or other serious reproductive health conditions, lightening or skipping a period can legitimately change your life, says Dr. Rahman. With endometriosis in particular, “pain might be especially bad around your cycle, to the point where you have to skip work, school, etc.,” she adds.

  • Fewer underwear changes, pads, and tampons. It may seem like a non-important factor, but think of how much $$ on menstrual products (and loads of laundry//gallons of water!) lighter or nonexistent periods could save you, points out Dr. Unger. Having fewer periods is actually an eco-friendly option.

  • It may help you feel more like yourself. “For folks dealing with gender dysphoria that is triggered by having a period [or who identify as trans or non-binary and just don’t want a period for that reason], the benefits of the right birth control can also be life-changing,” Dr. Unger says. Most forms of birth control can help your period become much lighter or safely disappear on a long-term basis.

Why You May Want Your Period to Stick Around

It seems like there couldn’t possibly be a catch to not having a period, but here are some things to think about:

  • You may not know if you’re pregnant. If you never have a period on certain forms of birth control, you likely won’t have any clear signs of an unintended pregnancy. Not getting even a slight reminder of your monthly cycle can be anxiety-provoking for some people, Dr. Rahman highlights (maybe try a v predictable combination birth control pill in that case!). Plus, if you’re living in a state with strict abortion bans, it can put you in a more difficult position.

  • Spotting in between periods is possible. Some forms of birth control, particularly the minipill and hormonal IUD, may have a side effect of spotting, aka breakthrough bleeding, Dr. Rahman says. This isn’t an ideal situation and can add extra stress to your wedding day, vacay, or another big event.

The bottom line

Before you decide on which is your number one choice of birth control method that may help you skip your period, chat with your ob-gyn or another medical provider to figure out what’s best for you, in terms of your period-stopping, pregnancy prevention, or acne prevention goals, for example, says Dr. Unger. And note that what works for one person may not be the right BC solution for someone else. “Keep in mind that there are a lot of reasons people can have heavy periods, and not all of those reasons can be effectively treated with hormonal birth control, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about your menstrual cycle and medical history in detail, so they can help figure out a solution that’s not only effective but also safe for you,” Dr. Unger adds.

For anyone who’s on birth control sans periods and having P-in-V sex, stay alert for any red flags of pregnancy. “If you develop new onset fatigue, breast tenderness or nausea and are taking the pill continuously so you do not menstruate, consult your doctor and take a pregnancy test,” Dr. Rahman says. Otherwise, enjoy the less crampy, less tampon-buying life.

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