One thing you never want to take on vacation with you: your period. With summer trips coming up, we definitely donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t blame you for fiddling with your birth control to ensure a tampon-free trip. In fact, 17 percent of women report using hormonal contraception to skip or delay their monthly period, according to a new study in the journal Contraception.
Researchers at the University of Oregon surveyed 1,374 female students who were on combined hormonal contraceptives in the last six months. Of the women who used birth control to delay their cycle, about half did so for convenience or scheduling purposesÃ¢â‚¬”like not wanting to worry about a period on vacation. Other less common reasons included personal preference or curbing PMS.
We get why itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tempting to skip your flow every once in a while, but is it safe? Absolutely, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If you are a good candidate to be on birth control in the first placeÃ¢â‚¬”youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re healthy, you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have high blood pressure thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s uncontrolled, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not over 35 or a smokerÃ¢â‚¬”then you are indeed a candidate for fiddling around with your cycle,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Minkin.
Of course, taking the DIY approach to skipping your menstrual cycle isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t totally mess-free. Ã¢â‚¬Å“A lot of women will get some breakthrough bleeding,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Minkin. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a health hazard, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just an annoyance.Ã¢â‚¬Â YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re more likely to get breakthrough bleeding if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve just started this birth control method, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re on a triphasic pill (where the level of hormones varies from week to week, like Ortho Tri-Cyclen), and if you delay your period for a longer period of time.
And hereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the best news: Skipping or delaying your period will not decrease the effectiveness of your birth control. That said, when you eventually do take your inactive pills or remove your patch or ring to get your period, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s crucial that you resume your next cycle in seven days to protect against pregnancy. If you forget to start a new cycle on time (which might be more likely since you havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been following a routine schedule), use backup birth control for the next week to make sure youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re protected.
Thinking about skipping your period? HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what you need to know:
If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re on the Pill: You can skip the inactive week of pills and immediately start a new pill pack. Just make sure that you have an extra pack or two on-hand in case you run out before your insurance company will let you refill your prescription, says Minkin. This works best if you get three months of pills at a time or if your doctor has given you extra samples.
If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re on the ring or the patch: After three weeks of wearing the ring or patch, remove it and immediately replace with a new one instead of going without for a week, says Minkin. Just as with the Pill, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll want to make sure that you have an extra ring or patch on-hand in case your insurance wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let you refill your prescription early.
If you want four or fewer periods a year: While there is no exact cut-off for the amount of time you can put off your period, newer birth control pills like Seasonique and Seasonale are specifically designed to give you a period once every three months. Another new option, Lybrel, gives you a period just once a year. So if you want to put off your flow for that long anyway, you might want to look into switching to one of these pills. Just remember that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re more likely to have breakthrough bleeding if you use one of these methods, says Minkin.
If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re over 35/smoke/have uncontrolled high blood pressure: Talk to your doctor before using birth control to skip or delay your period, says Minkin. These factors can all increase your risk of blood clots, stroke, or heart attack, so youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll want to be careful about any kind of birth control routine if you fall into one (or more) of these categories.
More from WH:
Fascinating Facts About Your Period
5 Surprising Effects of the PillÃ‚Â
What's a Normal Period?Ã‚Â