When you’re deciding which birth control method is right for you, you might want to know how it will affect your period. You might be looking to regulate your cycle, or you might prefer a method that won’t affect your period at all.
Some birth control methods can safely suppress your period entirely. Research suggests that the body can stay healthy without menstruating as often as it typically would.
It’s generally considered safe to use birth control to miss your period, but you should speak to your healthcare provider to help you decide whether it’s the best option for you.
This guide can help you understand how each birth control method may affect your period.
The birth control pill is a pill you can take every day to avoid pregnancy. There are different kinds of pills and schedules for taking them. Your doctor may recommend one pill over another depending on your health history and personal preferences.
The combination pill contains the hormones progestin and estrogen. These hormones work to stop ovulation, thicken cervical mucus, and thin the uterus lining.
Combination pill packs usually come with 21 days of active pills and 7 days of inactive pills, or 24 days of active pills and 4 days of inactive pills. This regulates your menstrual cycle by allowing you to have your period each month when you take the inactive pills.
Other packs offer continuous dosing with around 84 active pills and seven inactive pills. These pills often greatly reduce bleeding during the active days. Other packs only contain active pills and are likely to eliminate menstruation altogether.
The combination pill can relieve menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and it can lighten bleeding. Some people experience irregular bleeding and spotting between periods, but this is more common with the hormonal pill and usually goes away after the first few months.
The minipill uses only the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy. It thickens the cervical mucus and thins the uterus lining.
It affects ovulation but doesn’t stop it consistently like the combination pill does. Both pill types contain hormones, but the minipill contains less progestin than the combination pill does.
These pills come in packs of 28 with no inactive pills. Your period may be lightened or stopped. Some other common side effects are unpredictable spotting and heavy bleeding, but these typically go away as time passes.
The vaginal ring (NuvaRing) is a small ring that is inserted into the vagina and releases the hormones estrogen and progestin. The vaginal ring stops ovulation and thickens cervical mucus.
The ring thins the endometrial lining as well. It works similarly to the combination pills except the hormones are delivered through the tissues of the vagina.
The vaginal ring will work for
One option is to wait a week before inserting a new ring. During the week without a ring, you’ll typically have your period. Some people like to get their period monthly as confirmation that they’re not pregnant.
The other option is to insert a new ring immediately after removing the old one. This means you’ll skip your period. It’s a good idea to discuss this option with your doctor if it’s your preference.
If you choose to try to skip your period, you may still experience irregular bleeding and spotting. After the first few months, the spotting should lessen and then stop.
If you decide to wait a week between rings, you may notice that your period is lighter. If you typically get cramping, you may notice less cramping.
The birth control patch (Xulane) is worn directly on the skin. It releases the hormones progestin and estrogen through the skin into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy.
Users must remove their patch and apply a new one once a week for three weeks. The fourth week is a patch-free week for you to have your period. This regulates your period to make it more predictable. At the start of using the patch, you may experience some spotting.
The patch can help relieve menstrual cramps and make your period lighter. You can safely skip your period by applying another patch instead of having a patch-free week.
Talk to your healthcare provider before skipping consecutive periods because the patch has a higher hormone level than the pill or the ring.
An IUD is a small device that a healthcare provider inserts into the uterus. Depending on the type you choose, an IUD may prevent pregnancy for up to 12 years. IUDs are considered a form of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC).
The brand name for the copper IUD is Paraguard. The copper creates an environment that is harmful to sperm, preventing the sperm from reaching the egg and fertilizing it.
Because the copper IUD is hormone-free, you’ll continue ovulating and getting your period every month. In some cases, side effects of the copper IUD can include:
- heavier and prolonged bleeding
- more painful menstrual cramps
- random spotting
Most people find that these side effects decrease after the first few months.
The hormonal IUD releases the hormone progestin to thin the uterine lining and thicken cervical mucus to block the sperm from the uterus and prevent pregnancy. The four different hormonal IUD brands are:
Hormonal IUDs usually make periods lighter and reduce cramping and PMS. In some cases, a hormonal IUD can cause irregular periods and spotting, but these side effects usually decrease over time. Some hormonal IUD users stop getting their period entirely.
The birth control shot (Depo-Provera) is an injection of the hormone progestin. It protects against pregnancy for about three months, and then you will need to get another injection.
The shot prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation, thinning the uterus lining, and thickening and decreasing cervical mucus to block the sperm from the uterus.
Changes in your menstrual cycle are the most common side effects of using the shot. Your period will likely become irregular with unpredictable bleeding and spotting in the beginning. For most people, periods will become lighter and occur less frequently as time goes on.
After a year, over half of women using the birth control injection stop menstruation completely. This is normal, and periods usually return once you stop getting the injection.
In rare cases, bleeding can be prolonged and heavier than usual.
The contraceptive implant (Nexplanon) is a small plastic rod that is placed in the upper arm. It releases the hormone progestin to stop ovulation and thicken cervical mucus to block sperm.
The implant prevents pregnancy for up to three years, at which point it must be removed and replaced.
The effects of the implant on your period can be unpredictable. Unplanned spotting and light bleeding is a common side effect. Time between each period also varies. Some implant users don’t menstruate at all.
In some cases, users experience heavier and prolonged bleeding. Tell your healthcare provider immediately if this happens to you.
According to FDA research, 10 percent of women who stop using the implant do so because they don’t like the change in their bleeding pattern.
In the case that you think you may have gotten pregnant without meaning to, you can take an emergency contraceptive. These pills are effective up to five days after being impregnated.
The morning-after pill is approved for emergency use and not intended for regular use. This pill stops or delays an egg being released from the ovary. It can also prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus.
Levonorgestrel (Plan B and Next Choice) and ulipristal acetate (Ella) are the two types of morning-after pills.
One of the most common side effects of the morning-after pill is getting your period earlier or later than usual. If your period is more than a couple weeks late, you may want to consider taking a pregnancy test.
The morning-after pill can also make your period:
All of these irregularities in your period should go away by your next menstrual cycle.
Some birth control methods likely won’t affect your period at all. These include:
- male condom
- female condom
- contraceptive sponge
- cervical cap
If you choose one of these methods, you must use it every time you have sex to effectively avoid pregnancy. It’s also important to use it correctly.
These forms of birth control work the best when they are used perfectly, but other factors also determine how well they prevent pregnancy. Make sure you understand how effective each method is when deciding which one is right for you.
These methods of birth control can be used with other contraceptives that do manage menstruation. Male and female condoms are the only forms of birth control that reliably protect from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Some birth control methods offer a safe and effective way to eliminate or manage your menstrual cycle. Some options may have specific period-related side effects, while others may not change your menstrual cycle at all.
Your doctor can help you decide which birth control method is right for you. When making your decision, it’s important to consider a range of factors, such as which methods are best at preventing pregnancy, best at preventing STIs, and easiest to use.