Is Skipping Your Period Safe?

Is Skipping Your Period Safe?

Experts concur that skipping periods with back-to-back birth control is safe.

Most pill-takers have a single goal in mind: Remember to pop one a day, as directed, to prevent pregnancy. Others, however, have learned to wield the little white pills strategically, to keep Aunt Flo from barging in on hot-and-heavy weekend plans. And why not, when skipping a period is as simple as taking two 21-day courses of pills back-to-back? It's also quite safe, say experts such as Dr. Leslie Miller, associate professor of gynecology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, who thinks we should be able to stop our periods altogether. "A woman should be able to ask, 'How much progestin and estrogen do I need to turn off ovulation until I want to have a baby?' or say, 'I want to have a period every three months, or maybe I don't want any at all.' That's my vision," says Dr. Miller, a leader in continuous menstrual suppression research. "We need to learn how to dose the pill to get that effect."

Most physicians—and the FDA—haven't quite caught up with Dr. Miller, but her research found that Alesse, a low-dose pill by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, is an effective continuous menstrual suppressant. It also comes in a generic, Aviane, and Dr. Miller suggests that continuous use of similar pills, such as Levlite or Loestrin 1/20 (or their generics, Lessina and Microgestin 1/20, respectively), could work, too.

If you're interested, first find out exactly what hormone combination is in your existing prescription, and work with a doctor or pharmacist to modify it. You need a monophasic pill—every pill in the package should be the same color—and you also should consider a lower dosage, because you'll be taking it daily, without any breaks. Irregular bleeding is common, especially at first, so you'll need to be patient while you experiment.

And it may take several tries to find the right pill. There's no go-to formula that will continuously suppress menstruation for most women. Seasonale, a relatively new pill taken 84 days in a row to get four periods a year, is the closest thing on the market. Rebecca Banks d'Andrea, a 32-year-old culinary student in New York, tried Seasonale. "I thought it was kinda cool," she says. "I didn't have to worry about carrying tampons around. But there's something about getting my period that I definitely like. It's just a reassurance that everything's going well."

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