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Q&A

Preventing Menstruation With Birth Control Pills

Question:

I have heard that a woman can actually avoid having her period by taking the 'active' birth control pills continuously. How does it actually work? And are there any side-effects in the long run?


A regular 28-day pack birth control pills contains 21 active pills (which contain reproductive hormones) and 7 placebo pills. In a typical pill regimen, you take the active pills for the first 21 days, and a placebo for last seven days. When you're taking the placebo pills, you bleed vaginally, as if you were having a regular menstrual period.

To prevent having their period, some women skip the placebo pills and start on a new pack of active pills right away. Without the fall in hormonal level, the lining of the uterus does not shed, and so there's no bleeding.

It's a convenient way to avoid having your period during an important occasion or trip. Experts agree it's safe to take the pill continuously for about three months, but you should plan on taking the placebo pills so that you'll have a menstrual period.

As for side-effects, there are no long-term problems which result from continuous use, other than those typical side-effects associated with oral contraceptives. However, you're more likely to experience slight bleeding between periods, but this is usually not a big problem. In fact, some evidence even suggests an advantage to taking the pill continuously: You prevent hormone fluctuations that are responsible for bleeding, cramping, headaches and other discomforts associated with having your menses.

Continuous use of your birth control pills works best if you're taking monophasic pills -- all 21 pills containing the same hormone dose. For more information, consult your healthcare professional. You're recommended to do this with the advice of your doctor.


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