Recent research revealed that 20 percent of women skip their periods by running packs of birth control pills together without a break. This statistic was widely reported by the media with the majority of articles stating that doing so is both “safe” and “beneficial”. There are more drugs and devices that can suppress menstruation available to us, from Seasonique pills to the Nexplanon implant, than ever before.
However, there is a growing countermovement that asks that women think twice before showing Aunt Flo the door. Here are the top five myths you may have read and the opposing information you ought to know.
MYTH: Birth control pills regulate your period and treat cramps and heavy bleeding.
FACT: Birth control pills, or any kind of hormonal birth control, suppresses your own cycle—that’s both ovulation and menstruation—and supersedes it with a dose synthetic hormones. The bleed you experience during the break is not physiologically a period but a “withdrawal bleed” that has little relation to menstruation, which is why it might be lighter, shorter, and less painful.
MYTH: Having your period is unnatural and bad for your health.
FACT: The Center for Ovulation and Menstrual Cycle Research’s Dr Jerilynn Prior and author of No More Periods? The Risks of Menstrual Suppression, Dr Susan Rako argue that experiencing your monthly cycle of ovulation and menstruation boosts bone, heart, and breast health and protects against some of the most common causes of premature death—heart disease, breast cancer, cervical cancer, and heart attacks, as well as osteoporosis and strokes.
MYTH: Having a menstrual cycle is only useful when you need to know that you’re not pregnant or want to get pregnant.
FACT: The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research believes menstruation should be viewed as the fifth vital sign to be monitored by our doctors alongside blood pressure as an indicator of the our overall health. The regularity of your periods can reveal the status of your health and indicate potential fertility issues early on, allowing women to seek treatment ahead of deciding to have a baby. A lack of periods can be a sign of severe stress, over-exercising, or an eating disorder and so can be a particularly useful warning to doctors and parents of teen girls. Women who track their hormone cycles via fertility awareness methods are able to self-diagnose food intolerances and allergies.
MYTH: After stopping using the birth control pill or other hormonal contraceptives your periods will return immediately.
FACT: It can take up to a year for your periods to return after using the pill or another drug or device long term but it the length of time is different for every woman. If you’ve stopped in order to get pregnant you may not ovulate, and therefore be fertile, for some months until the synthetic hormones have left your system and your body’s cycle has reestablished. The pill masks rather than treats problems like PCOS and endometriosis and so once off the pill women may be diagnosed with these issues, which affect cycle regularity and therefore fertility. Organizations like the Red Tent Sisters show there are other ways to truly treat these health and fertility issues that address the root cause.
MYTH: There is no reason to take a break between packets of birth control pills.
FACT: There has been no research into the long-term impact of avoiding withdrawal bleeds when using the birth control pill by running packs together. Yet doing this consistently leads to a woman taking 25 percent more synthetic hormones into her body every year and therefore her risk of suffering the documented adverse effects, from depression to blood clots, is increased significantly.