For the first time in my two-year health journey, I’m happy to report that my doctors and I are making progress on my treatment plan — and damn, does it feel good to be heard.
The latest development on my health journey? I just started taking the progesterone-only pill on top of my hormonal IUD to help manage my painful period symptoms. The goal is to stop ovulating — and therefore, stop having a period. And because I take these pills continuously, I won’t have a period again unless I stop taking them.
So, is it safe to skip your period? I’ve heard mixed reviews. Thought leaders in the female hormone space like Alisa Vitti and Dr. Jolene Brighten caution against using it to mask symptoms, yet many doctors (including mine) recommend it as a form of treatment for patients with endometriosis.
Part of the problem is that women with endo have so few solutions. Right now, the options for endometriosis treatment I’ve encountered are hormonal therapy, laparoscopic surgery and radical hysterectomy. Research funding for endometriosis treatments is currently less than $1 per patient, meaning the National Institutes of Health have all but given up on curing this condition. Yet don’t we deserve more options, so it’s not just hormones or surgery?
If you feel as strongly about this as I do, then sign my change.org petition to the National Institutes of Health to allot more research dollars to endometriosis. Click here to help make a difference in the lives of women with endo — and read on to learn more about the safety of skipping periods with the pill!
So, is it safe to skip my period with the pill?
If you suffer from endo like I do, you’ve probably been asked (or told) to try skipping your periods with hormonal therapy. For many women, the first line of defense is hormonal birth control, like the progesterone-only (or “mini”) pill or the hormonal IUD. Sometimes, in my case, multiple forms are combined, since the IUD does not always stop ovulation.
The short answer to whether or not this is really safe is: yes! You won’t drop dead if you decide you no longer want to have a period. That being said, there are side effects and risks to taking the pill, which can include life-threatening blood clots (most common in smokers) and severe depression. The best course of action is always to consult with your doctor to decide what method is best for you to regulate your periods.
So, why does skipping periods on the hormonal pill work? When you take the pill as directed, you’re not having a true period. The pill suppresses ovulation, which prevents the hormonal fluctuations that signal your uterine lining to thicken and shed. Instead, you’re having what’s called a withdrawal bleed, since you are on “withdrawal” from hormones while taking the week of placebo pills.
Medically, there’s no reason why you must have a withdrawal bleed. Because your uterine lining does not thicken each month, your uterus will not “back up” with menstrual blood if you do not have a period. In fact, when doctors created the pill, the only reason they included the week of placebo pills was because women are reassured by having a period that they are not pregnant! Many women have light or absent periods while taking hormonal contraception, and that is perfectly healthy and normal.
To skip your period on purpose, however, your next course of action depends on your particular type of hormonal therapy. If you’re on the hormonal birth control pill, you can skip the week of placebo pills and start your next pack right away, since continuous hormone use will keep you from experiencing a withdrawal bleed. If you have endometriosis, however, your doctor may prescribe hormones to be taken continuously, rather than the typical birth control pill. Some studies show women with endo actually do better on high-dose progestin-only pills, rather than the traditional combined birth control pill.