1. Your cycle
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  3. Birth control

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5 Common Reasons for Missing Your Period on Birth Control

If you’re taking oral contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, missing a period might seem confusing. But missing your period on birth control isn’t that uncommon, and in many cases, it doesn’t necessarily mean that anything has gone wrong. Read this article to find out more about skipping periods on birth control.

How do birth control pills work?

There are different types of birth control pills, but all types of hormonal birth control work by inhibiting your ovulation. If your ovaries don’t release an egg each month, you cannot get pregnant.

Birth control pills typically contain estrogen and progesterone. Some pills contain only progesterone. These hormones both work to change your natural menstrual cycle and stop ovulation.

With most birth control prescriptions, you take active pills for 21 days and then placebo pills (or no pills) for seven days. These seven days are known as the “rest week.” Even though you’re not taking any hormones on these days, the pill is still working to prevent pregnancy. You usually get your period during these last seven days. Some oral contraceptive prescriptions have you take 24 active pills and four placebo pills. For progesterone-only pills, you typically take them for 28 days straight and then immediately start the next pack.

Birth control also prevents pregnancy by thickening your cervical mucus, which makes it harder for sperm to reach your uterus. It also makes your endometrial lining thinner.

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Does birth control stop periods?

Technically speaking, yes. The “period” that you get when you’re on birth control isn’t the same as a regular period. Without hormonal birth control, the lining of your uterus gets thicker to prepare for possible pregnancy and then sheds during your period if you’re not pregnant. Your body doesn’t ovulate or go through this regular menstrual cycle when you’re taking oral contraceptives. Instead, what you experience as a period on birth control is called withdrawal bleeding.

This bleeding occurs as a response to your body not receiving the same hormones during the rest week at the end of your 21-day pack. That means that if you continue taking the pill and skip the rest week, you can skip your “periods” too. Make sure to talk to your health care provider about whether this is a good option for you. There are also other factors that can cause you to skip the withdrawal bleeding even if you do take your 7-day break.

When do you get your period on birth control pills?

Once you’ve started your 7-day break from the pill each month, you’ll usually start to bleed two to four days into the pill-free week. This varies for each person, but birth control tends to make your cycle very regular. That means that after a few months on the pill, you’ll find that your “period” usually starts on the same day of that week every month.

You’ll probably be getting your “period” every 28 days, but even after your body has gotten used to the pill, you can still experience late periods on birth control. If it’s only a few days, there’s probably nothing to worry about.

Keep in mind that your birth control only works effectively if you take it correctly. If you’ve forgotten to take three or more non-placebo pills, you could experience withdrawal bleeding before your 7-day break is scheduled. This would mean that you are no longer protected for the month and that you need to use a backup method of birth control and start a new pack.

Does missing a period mean I’m pregnant?

If you’ve been taking your pills according to the instructions, the pills will be 99.7 percent effective, even if you didn’t experience any withdrawal bleeding. The efficacy of the pill depends on you taking the pill at approximately the same time every day.

There are different reasons that can cause a missed period on the pill. However, it’s important to remember that no birth control method is 100 percent effective. If you’ve missed a period on birth control and want to be sure, you can always take a pregnancy test. If it comes back negative, it might also help reduce your stress and get your cycle back to normal.

If you’ve missed three non-placebo pills or more, your chances of ovulating will increase. If you don’t experience any bleeding for a few days after missing the pills, you should take a pregnancy test. You should also take a pregnancy test if you miss two periods in a row while on birth control.

5 reasons for a missed period on birth control

Hormones can fluctuate for many reasons, and these fluctuations could cause you to miss your period on the pill. Here are some of the most common reasons why you may not have your period on birth control.

Stress

Stress can really impact your hormones. It increases your levels of cortisol, which is also called the “stress hormone.” It also affects your hypothalamus, which is a gland that controls many hormonal functions in your body. This can cause a hormonal imbalance during your cycle.

Stress can also create a vicious cycle when it comes to missed periods. If you’re worried about your missed period, the stress can make your hormone levels fluctuate, which makes it less likely that you’ll get your period. That’s why many health care providers recommend taking a pregnancy test to regain your peace of mind.

Any situation that causes stress can make you miss a period on the pill. Stress from work or school, the death or illness of a loved one, moving across the country, or even traveling can cause a missed period.

Prolonged use of birth control

One of the effects that birth control has on your body is the thinning of your uterine lining. This lining is called the endometrium, and it sheds every month during your period and causes bleeding.

Because the pill makes your endometrium thinner, using birth control for a long time can eventually cause a missed period. This is because your endometrium may become too thin to bleed, and it’s fairly common to skip a period for this reason.

Dietary changes

Going on an extremely restricted-calorie diet can cause a missed period on the pill. Restricting your caloric intake too much can cause a hormonal imbalance because your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs to produce hormones properly. 

Weight loss

Did you know that sex hormones come from cholesterol? It’s true! Having an abnormally low body fat percentage can wreak havoc on your hormones. People who are seriously overweight or underweight can experience a myriad of hormonal issues.

Excessive exercise

Even if you’re not on birth control, excessive exercise can cause you to miss a period. This is because exercise can disrupt your hormonal levels and your menstrual cycle. High-performance athletes tend to experience amenorrhea (lack of menstruation) and miss periods continuously. Recreational athletes can also experience this disruption.

Is it safe to skip periods with birth control?

Health care providers have been prescribing birth control to stop periods for a long time. Some people on birth control choose to skip their period only for special occasions (maybe you expect your period to arrive during your wedding or honeymoon and would like to avoid it). Other people use birth control to stop their periods if they have conditions such as endometriosis or period-related anemia.

Scientific research has found that using birth control to skip your period is as safe as taking your pills normally. If you’re interested in stopping your periods with birth control, though, it’s always a good idea to talk to your health care provider about it first. 

No period after stopping birth control — what is that about?

If you’ve decided to stop taking the pill, it can take a while for your cycle to return to normal. This varies from person to person. Most people will have  their period around two to four weeks after stopping the pill. However, your cycle may be irregular for some time. It’s normal for your body to need up to three months to go back to normal after stopping your birth control. If your cycles remain irregular for longer, make sure to visit your health care provider to find out the cause of your irregular cycles.

How to keep track of your menstrual cycle?

You can use a menstrual tracker like Flo to keep track of your cycle. Menstrual calendar apps allow you to log your symptoms and determine when you should expect your period. This can also take some weight off your mind, since you won’t have to remember when your period is due to arrive. The app will do it for you!

Overall, as long as you’re taking it correctly, birth control is highly effective at preventing pregnancy. Many factors can cause a missed period on birth control. If you’re worried, take a pregnancy test to ease your mind. Adding some relaxing activities and staying healthy can help get your cycle back to normal.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Birth Control: How to Skip Your Monthly Period.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 31 Jan. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/birth-control/in-depth/womens-health/art-20044044.

“When Will My Periods Come Back after I Stop Taking the Pill?” NHS Choices, NHS, 17 July 2018, www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/when-periods-after-stopping-pill/.
“Combined Pill.” NHS Choices, NHS, 6 July 2017, www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/combined-contraceptive-pill/.

Nappi, Rossella E., et al. “Extended Regimen Combined Oral Contraception: A Review of Evolving Concepts and Acceptance by Women and Clinicians.” Taylor & Francis, 17 Nov. 2015, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/13625187.2015.1107894.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Birth Control Pill FAQ: Benefits, Risks and Choices.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 25 May 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/birth-control/in-depth/birth-control-pill/art-20045136.

“Combined Hormonal Birth Control: Pill, Patch, and Ring.” ACOG, www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Combined-Hormonal-Birth-Control-Pill-Patch-and-Ring.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Choosing a Birth Control Pill.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 29 Jan. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/birth-control/in-depth/best-birth-control-pill/art-20044807.

Klein, David A., and Merrily A. Poth. “Amenorrhea: An Approach to Diagnosis and Management.” American Family Physician, 1 June 2013, www.aafp.org/afp/2013/0601/p781.html.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Birth Control: How to Skip Your Monthly Period.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 31 Jan. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/birth-control/in-depth/womens-health/art-20044044.

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