It’s okay to skip your monthly period on purpose, says Carrie Coleman, MD, MGH obstetrician/gynecologist.

Monthly periods may be a natural process for women, but they are not medically necessary, says Carrie Coleman, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. While many women struggle with painful cramps, heavy bleeding and the uncertainty of irregular menstrual cycles, Dr. Coleman says there’s no need to suffer, or even bother, with a monthly period.

“But if you skip the week of placebos and simply continue with the medication, you can eliminate your period entirely with minimal-to-no side effects.”

“Women taking a birth control pill usually take three weeks of medication, often a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin, and then one week of placebos,” Dr. Coleman says. “But if you skip the week of placebos and simply continue with the medication, you can eliminate your period entirely with minimal-to-no side effects.”

Gynecologists have been aware of this for years, but Dr. Coleman says the topic often only comes up with women who are having difficulty with cramps or related medical issues.

Monthly Period Not Necessary

“I suppose women have been socialized to believe that they should get their period every month,” Dr. Coleman says, “but the truth is, there is no scientific evidence of any adverse effects of eliminating your period through the extended use of the pill or an IUD.”

Carrie Coleman, MD
Carrie Coleman, MD

In fact, research has shown that women who have been on the pill for at least five years have a reduced risk for ovarian cancer. While some women are concerned about a possible link between breast cancer and the pill, Dr. Coleman says no good scientific data supports that fear.

Birth control pills stabilize a woman’s natural hormone levels and prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs. Some prescriptions for the pill include synthetic forms of two female hormones: estrogen and progestin, with the same levels of estrogen and progestin throughout the cycle.

Option with Few Limits

“There are really no limitations on who can take the pill continuously,” Dr. Coleman says. “It’s great for teenagers who are fighting off debilitating periods or who are eager to participate in sports, but it is also effective for women nearing the end of their menstruating years. The only risk we’ve seen is that some women will have a little bleeding, which can be annoying, but is less likely to be dangerous.”

Once a woman stops taking the pill, Dr. Coleman says, her fertility will return to what it was before.

Women should always consult with a physician when choosing a form of contraception to ensure they have the option that is right for them. It is also worth having a conversation with an OB/GYN before eliminating their period.

Impact on Fertility

Once a woman stops taking the pill, Dr. Coleman says, her fertility will return to what it was before.

“It may take longer for your baseline period cycle to come back,” she says, “but traditionally, we believe that  once you’re off the pill and don’t take it every day, there’s a chance of getting pregnant.”

To learn more about how you can support research in gynecology and obstetrics at Mass General, contact us.