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YOU ASKED IT: BIRTH CONTROL AND YOUR PERIOD

I was talking about birth control with my doctor, and she said that some types might stop me from getting my period. Isn’t that bad for you?

Great question! This is a common concern when choosing a form of birth control. Since many people are used to a missed period signaling that something is off, changes can be alarming. A lot of people also worry that not getting a period is somehow unhealthy because it prevents your body from shedding the uterine lining. However, because hormonal birth control changes the normal menstrual process to prevent pregnancy, it also eliminates the need for monthly bleeding.

The menstrual cycle is the process by which your body prepares itself to become pregnant, so it makes sense that birth control works to disrupt it! You get your period because your uterus builds up a lining throughout the cycle to prepare for a fertilized egg. Your ovaries release the egg about midway through your cycle, during a process called “ovulation.” If the egg does not become fertilized, your body sheds both the egg and uterine lining, which make up your period, about 14 days later. Hormonal birth control disrupts this process by using synthetic versions of hormones produced by your body. This prevents pregnancy by preventing ovulation and/or stopping your uterus from building up a lining.

Birth control that contains both estrogen and progestin — such as the pill, patch, or ring — try to simulate the menstrual cycle by building in a “period week,” when you take placebo pills, or remove your ring or patch. This makes hormone levels in your body drop, which causes “withdrawal” bleeding similar to your period. Inconvenient time? It’s totally safe to start your next pack, ring, or patch right away to dodge the crimson wave. Since you’re not ovulating, there’s no need to bleed.

Bleeding patterns can be more unpredictable with birth control methods that contain only progestin, such as the implant, hormonal IUD, and shot. Some people experience irregular bleeding or spotting, while some lose their period altogether. Every body is different, so it’s hard to predict how yours will react before you try it.

If you feel more comfortable getting a “period” every month to mirror your natural cycle, that’s great info to know when choosing a birth control method. However, changing bleeding patterns and vanishing periods are totally normal on hormonal birth control, and some people prefer it! If you’re interested in birth control, make an appointment with your health care provider to talk about your options and get started with a method that is right for you.

ABOUT YOU ASKED IT

You’ve got questions.  We’ve got answers. At the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, we answer a lot of questions. Topics range from nutrition to pregnancy prevention, and everything in between. Now, we’re bringing these questions back to you with our new weekly advice column, You Asked It. Got a question? Holler at us in the comments, send us a message on Facebook or Twitter, or email us at teenhealthcareorg@gmail.com

Missed a “You Asked It” post? Click on “You Asked it” under Topics.

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