How To Stop Your Period Using The Birth Control Pill Or An IUD
Sorry to state the obvious, but periods kinda suck. They’re pretty much always at least a mild nuisance, but then there are those times when getting your period absolutely can’t be in the cards.
Maybe you have a big vacation coming up and don’t want to deal with tampons or menstrual cups while you’re hiking up a mountain. Or maybe there’s a big event on the horizon that just isn’t flow-friendly, like, uh, your wedding day when you might be wearing a big white dress (if that’s your style).
If you’ve ever Googled for info on how to stop your period in these times of desperation, you may have stumbled across some, er, interesting suggestions for how to get rid of it faster (uh, drinking vinegar to stop your period? WTF?).
But the truth is, the science is really only there for one stopping-your-period hack: birth control. And most doctors will warn you not to fall for those other woo-woo tricks on internet message boards — but I’ll get to those later. First…
No matter what you’ve heard, hormonal birth control is the only real way to stop your period or make it lighter.
An anatomy lesson: Your uterus builds up a lining of blood and tissue each month just in case your egg gets fertilized. If no little sperm find your egg, your body sheds it all — egg, blood, and tissue (that’s your period).
Behind the process are a couple of hormones called estrogen and progesterone, according to the Merck Manual. And when you’re on hormonal birth control (which is made with synthetic hormones), it manipulates your natural levels of estrogen and progesterone to keep you from getting pregnant typically by stopping your body from ovulating and/or by causing a change in the thickness of the mucus in the cervix to make it harder for sperm to get to the egg.
These are some of the popular types of birth control that can help stop your period:
- Monthly hormonal contraceptive pills: “Low-dose pills contain a lot less estrogen while maintaining a normal or extra amount of progestins, which tend to cause many women to experience a specific lightening in their period or having it stop altogether,” says Dr Stephanie McClellan, an ob/gyn and chief medical officer for the women’s health app Tia. If you’re on the Pill, you can manipulate how you take the daily pills to make you skip a period. All you have to do is skip over the placebo pills and continue right on to taking the BC pills in your net pack. (And there’s zero harm in skipping the period week, given that the “period” you get when you’re on hormonal birth control is fake anyway. )
- Extended cycle contraceptives: If switching to a new pack of pills every three weeks seems like too much, you can also talk to your doctor about switching to extended cycle contraceptives. Some Pills come in 90-day packs, and although they don’t completely get rid of your period, they do reduce your menstruation to four times a year.
- The IUD: If you want your flow to fade into a distant memory, consider a hormonal IUD like Mirena. Women with this type of IUD might get a lighter period, or none at all. That’s because the progesterone secreted by the IUD thins the lining of the uterine wall, making it shed significantly less than it would otherwise.
- The ring or patch: Skipping your period on these methods of birth control is similar to the monthly pill. After three weeks of wearing the patch or the ring, you just need to swap it out for a new one instead of foregoing it for a week. Like with the pill, you might have some breakthrough bleeding, but it all just depends on your body. Just make sure you mention your plan to your doctor, so you have a new ring or patch ready to go.
It’s always wise to talk to your doctor first about stopping your period with birth control. They can advise you as to which method might be the best fit for you and your lifestyle.
You mean, I’ll never have a period again if I skip over placebo pills or get an IUD?
Well, not exactly. If you’re using a progestin-only contraception, like an IUD, the disrupt in hormones will change the uterine lining and make it thinner. Many people have a lighter period or stop having a period at all when they have an IUD, Dr. McClellan notes. But if you have an IUD, you kind of have to wait to see how your body reacts to it. If your period gets lighter or goes away after a few months, it’ll typically stay that way once your body adjusts. It’s impossible to predict if your period will totally disappear, though.
Of course, your period would start back up once the IUD is removed. Nothing (except menopause and certain medical conditions) will get rid of your period for good.
With birth control pills or a method like the ring, if you don’t skip the placebo pills or immediately put your next ring in, you’ll likely get some bleeding again. A heads up that you might still experience spotting or other symptoms, like breast tenderness, even when you skip the placebo pills or pop a ring in; it’s not always foolproof. So you may want to be prepared with a light tampon or panty liner if you’re worried about spotting at all.
One important note: Although many insurance companies will cover continuous and cyclic birth control pill packs, it’s worth letting your doctor know that you are planning to take your birth control this way so that the prescription is written correctly — you’ll need more packs than normal in a year. And if you find yourself skipping several or *always* forgoing the placebo pills, you may want to talk to your doc about switching to a new kind of birth control. Some pill packs allow you to have a period only four times a year — so if that sounds attractive, make an appointment.
If my period has already started, is there a way to make it end faster?
Sorry, the answer is no. Once the blood is in motion, nothing will stop it. You just have to ride it out. Your best bet is to think ahead and plan in advance if you know you want to skip over the placebo pills at any given time. You can’t just skip it for, say, one night that you decide you don’t want to bleed.
What if I want to skip just one period? Can I do that?
Yes, you can if you’re on the Pill! It’s pretty simple really: “If you’re planning on skipping that period you should take the pills up until the placebos and move up to the next pill pack in order to not get your period that month,” Dr McClellan explains. And if you want to go back to taking the placebo pills in a pack at some point, that’s totally fine.
But wait, I’ve read some wacky things about drinking vinegar or lemon juice to stop your period. Is that true?
Sorry, that’s a big nope. Dr McClellan has never even heard of this myth, but she still ensures that it’s exactly that — a myth.
Vinegar can have good health effects, she says, but she has no idea how it would stop a period…because it doesn’t make any physiological sense. Neither will drinking lemon juice or any specific types of food, for that matter. Unless what you’re consuming affects estrogen and progestin levels, nothing will delay or halt your periods (aside from, yes, birth control!).
Lastly, if you have skipped several periods in a row without an IUD or birth control pills, you should check with a doctor to make sure everything is okay. “If your period stops spontaneously as a result of something other than the pill than you need to really look at what caused it,” Dr McClellan says. Missing periods could be a sign of extreme weight loss (associated with eating disorders), polycystic ovary syndrome, ovarian failure, pelvic inflammatory disease, and uterine fibroids, among other things, according to the Mayo Clinic.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com