Instructions on a package of birth control pills are crystal clear. Take one “active” pill at the same time every day. And when you get to the row of seven with a slightly different hue (the so-called “reminder” pills), you’ll get your period. Easy, peasy. But on January 21, the United Kingdom’s Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) announced, “Women can safely take fewer (or no) hormone-free intervals to avoid monthly bleeds, cramps and other symptoms,” per a press release.
On this side of the pond, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t set forth similar guidelines for birth control just yet, but I talked to Dr. Adeeti Gupta, MD, founder of Walk In GYN Care in New York City. She didn’t mince words.
“It’s totally fine to skip the placebo week and go on straight to the next pack,” she says. Dr. Gupta does recommend taking a placebo week at least every three to four months so that your uterus can clean house, though. “Continuous suppression of estrogen and progesterone—which is what the birth control pills do—can also lead to severe vaginal dryness and decreased libido as well,” she adds. (The caveat here is that hormonal birth control isn’t for everyone. All women should speak to their doctor to determine the form of contraceptive—and, indeed, any medication—that’s best for them and their particular needs.)
According to Planned Parenthood, the FDA has approved three synthetic birth control combination pills for the purpose of regulating menstruation on a quarterly (rather than monthly) basis—Seasonale, Seasonique, and Lybrel. Rather than a pack of 28 pills (which includes seven placebos), each package contains 84 days’ worth of active pills. Asking your gynecologist to prescribe one the of these options might save you a few trips to the pharmacy. Otherwise, just start a new pack once you reach the row of inactive pills.
I don’t know how you feel about it, but a few months sans period cramps or breaking a sweat trying to comfortably situate a menstrual cup sounds like pure bliss.
Not to burst your bubble, but ovulation pain is also a thing. The good news? Wait for your period to actually start and you’ll have your best run of the month.
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