Even though it's "your body, your choice", sometimes it can feel like you're actually living life at the mercy of your birth control pills. At some point you've probably cursed them for guaranteeing your period will fall right when you're going on a camping trip, seeing your long-distance partner, or attending a diner en blanc.
But maybe you've also heard a legend from your girlfriends or someone on the internet that you can actually just switch around your birth control pills so that you skip your period altogether. Sounds a little sketchy, no? Actually, "it is absolutely safe to do," says Raquel Dardik, MD, clinical associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center. Who's in charge now, huh?!
Here's how it works: Instead of taking the row of placebo pills that you would normally take to get your period, you just skip them and go straight to your next pack of pills. You can either toss the sugar pills and completely forego your period that month, or you can delay your period by waiting until the next week to take them. Although, if you do decide to take them, your doctor might recommend only taking the inactive pills for three or four days (rather than the full seven) in order to prevent breakthrough bleeding, according to Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Dardik says you can do this with all birth control pills, but it's more difficult to do with some types of pills, specifically those that come in multiple "phases". Most pills are monophasic, meaning there's only one phase: You'll take 21 equally dosed pills in a pack and then a week of inactive pills, according to Mayo Clinic. But other types may be biphasic, triphasic, or even quadriphasic, meaning the hormone dose in each pill changes throughout the month. Triphasic pills, for example, come in three different doses.
It sounds confusing, but pills are usually colour-coded in the packaging if they have multiple phases. So you don't really have to keep track too closely as long as you take them in order, Dr. Dardik says.
Regardless of the type of pill you're on, it's a good idea to check in with your doctor before doing this. Of course, you should always take your medications as specified by your doctor, and this is technically "breaking the rules". But despite what you might have heard or assumed, it's not bad to skip your period on purpose. Now, if you're not on birth control and not getting your period, that's definitely something to talk to your doctor about, Dr. Dardik says. However, if you're "on the pill, it is not at all harmful not to get your period." In other words, your doctor will probably be totally on board with your switcheroo. The only drawback to skipping your period is that some women will experience spotting, Dr. Dardik says.
And if you're worrying that moving around your pills once will screw up your cycle going forward, don't. "If you skip a week, obviously your next period will be a week earlier," Dr. Dardik says. "But [this] should not otherwise affect your cycle."
Keep in mind that there are birth control methods available that could stop you from getting your period altogether or at least lighten it significantly (such as a hormonal IUD), so you might want to consider switching to one of those if it really is a problem for you most months (in fact, more and more women are moving away from the pill in favour of these longer-acting reversible contraceptives). Otherwise, here's permission to delay your period until after you've had the holiday sex you spent so much time planning.