Using birth control to stop periods is a pretty common thing. There are a lot of reasons why you may want to skip your period.
You might experience severe menstrual cramps or feel tired and irritable every month. Or maybe you’re simply fed up with the way a monthly bleed affects your lifestyle.
Whatever the reason, know that not all birth control options are equally effective at preventing periods.
(In fact, the period that you have if you’re already on hormonal birth control isn’t actually a period —it’s withdrawal bleeding, a response to the sudden stop of hormones during your break week.)
With that in mind, here’s the lowdown on the best options around right now to stop periods.
Combination birth control pills are often the most common way to stop periods.
That’s because the schedule you use to take them can result in fewer periods or no periods at all.
For example, you may continually take a pill containing estrogen and progestin every day until you decide not to.
Or you might take so-called “active” pills for a few months straight before having a break. During your break, you might take “inactive” pills that contain no hormones for a week.
Other forms of birth control can have “no period” effects — but there’s often less of a guarantee.
Planned Parenthood, an advocacy group, says that combination birth control pill packs tend to come with 21 active pills and 7 placebo pills. That means you’ll take hormone-containing pills for 3 weeks and placebo pills for the final week each month.
That final week is when you’d traditionally have withdrawal bleeding. But if you carry on taking the hormone-containing or active pills continually, you’ll skip the bleeding part.
Why? Because the drop in hormones triggers the body to release blood and mucus from the uterus lining. This is similar to a regular period, except the uterus lining doesn’t thicken each month.
If there’s no change in hormone levels,
While you can opt for an extended or continuous schedule with any combination pill, some pills also have few or no placebo options.
And these options are specifically designed for fewer or zero periods.
The first “no period” pill approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Lybrel came as a pack of active pills taken every day.
That means you’d never have a period, as there are no placebo pills or breaks for withdrawal bleeding.
Lybrel is no longer available, but DailyMed says that its generic version — Amethyst — is. And Amethyst uses the same continuous method.
Amethyst costs around $45 (without insurance) for a pack of 28 combination pills.
Seasonale works similarly to Amethyst by offering people a chance to use continuous birth control.
But you will have 4 periods per year while taking it, since it follows a 12-week active pill schedule followed by 7 days of inactive pills.
Seasonale tends to cost around $45 (without insurance) per month. But a couple of generic versions are available, such as Jolessa and Setlakin.
Similarly to Seasonale, Seasonique allows you to have just 4 withdrawal bleeds every year.
With Seasonique, you’ll take 12 weeks of active pills containing an estrogen and progestin. Then, you’ll follow that up with 1 week of low-dose estrogen pills, rather than placebo pills.
This can be a better option if you tend to have side effects from coming off hormones for a week. For example, it can lower the likelihood of bleeding and bloating.
But there’s a downside. Seasonique is pretty expensive, usually costing hundreds of dollars for a pack lasting 3 months without insurance.
Generic versions like Camrese may be slightly cheaper, but can still be pricey.
Quartette was the first extended-use birth control pill approved by the FDA with a rising dose of estrogen.
This means that you’ll take active pills for 12 weeks. The estrogen dose gradually increases from 20 micrograms to 30 micrograms.
Then, you’ll take low-dose estrogen pills for 1 week before starting the next 12-week active cycle.
This dose change is meant to help lower the chance of breakthrough bleeding that can occur when using extended-use pills. And the overall schedule means you’ll only have a period every 3 months.
Quartette can also be expensive, ranging from $70 to over $300 per pack without insurance. But its generic version —Rivelsa —is usually cheaper.
Yaz is designed to not only prevent pregnancy, but also to treat acne and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
It comes as a pack of 28 pills: 24 active and 4 inactive.
If you take it according to the “normal” schedule, you’ll have withdrawal bleeding every month. But since it’s a combination pill, you can carry on taking the active pills and avoid taking the inactive pills.
Some people choose to take it for a few months straight and then have a break, while others may continually take the active pills for longer.
Yaz can cost anywhere between $15 and $80 per pack. As with all the other brands, generic versions, like Gianvi and Loryna, cost less.
There’s not actually a biological reason to have a period.
Having a period is natural and can be an indicator of overall health. But stopping it shouldn’t be seen as an unnatural thing to do.
Plus, if you’re already taking hormonal birth control, it’s worth remembering that the “period” you’re having is just withdrawal bleeding.
So, in effect, you’re already stopping your menstrual period.
No study has found adverse effects of using an extended or continuous birth control schedule. In fact, some doctors say you can suppress your period for a long time if you want to.
However, there haven’t been any long-term studies on this. And Planned Parenthood adds that combination pills can come with a slightly increased risk of things like strokes, blood clots, and liver tumors.
Of course, it may also be more difficult to detect pregnancy if you’re not having a period.
There are other options to reduce the frequency of your periods. You can try some to stop your periods completely. You can use others on a schedule similar to the one for combination pills.
But while extended or continuous birth control pills almost come with a “no period” guarantee, some of the following birth control methods may or may not be able to stop periods:
- hormonal intrauterine device (IUD)
- birth control implant
- Depo-Provera shot
- vaginal ring (can be used continuously)
- birth control patch (can be used continuously)
According to the National Women’s Health Network, it’s perfectly safe to stop your periods with birth control pills and common to want to do so. You can opt to never have a period or to just have a handful per year — the choice is yours.
Just remember to speak with a healthcare professional about the best option for you.
Lauren Sharkey is a U.K.-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she isn’t trying to discover a way to banish migraines, she can be found uncovering the answers to your lurking health questions. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters. Catch her on Twitter.