Convenience and contraception have often gone hand in hand, preventing pregnancy and helping women manage the complications that can arise from a difficult menstrual cycle.
But what if you don’t even need to have a period anymore?
Many forms of contraception give women the option to ‘skip’ their period in the week normally reserved for bleeding.
This bleeding is not actually menstruation, but the body’s reaction to the withdrawal of hormones.
Medical director of Family Planning NSW, Deborah Bateson, said this is part of the design of many oral and removable contraceptives.
“When the combined pill was developed, it was traditionally set up with 21 hormone pills and seven pill-free days,” Dr Bateson said.
“It was set up in that way to make it more acceptable to women in the 1960s. But now what we realise is that many women actually want to avoid that bleeding.”
A common misconception among women is that continually skipping will result in a build up of blood inside of the uterus.
However, when women take contraceptives continuously,the lining of the uterus thins out until there is very little to no bleeding at all.
Modern oral contraceptives are the most popular form of birth control among Australian women, while their more permanent counterparts, long-acting reversible contraceptives, are significantly less so.
LARCs, such as the intrauterine device or “the rod”, are even more effective for preventing pregnancy and stopping menstruation because they are inserted inside the body for a period of several years, taking human forgetfulness out of the equation.
Dr Bateson says this is reason behind the growing popularity of IUDs among young women, who want reduce the chance of unintended pregnancy and eliminate their periods.
“We’re inserting more IUDs in young women. It’s mainly the hormonal IUDs, because most women are actually quite keen on the idea of having reduced bleeding.”
“As soon as the IUD is removed, that woman is returned to her normal state of fertility.”
There is also evidence to suggest that an extended and continuous contraceptive regimen is actually more effective at preventing unintended pregnancy.
“There’s data out there that could suggest the pill is more effective when taken continuously because women will sometimes forget to take their first pill after their pill free period, so taking the pill continuously may well improve its efficacy in preventing pregnancy,” said Dr Bateson.
Skipping periods can also help to alleviate the pain associated with the withdrawal bleeding period.
“It allows women to control their bleeding or reduce it, and it can also reduce what we call the withdrawal symptoms in that pill free break like headaches and pelvic pain,” said Dr Bateson.
Despite the concern that continually skipping your period is “unnatural” or “unhealthy”, there are no medical grounds to justify this claim.
“There’s no evidence that continuous use of the pill would have any different effect on your health,” Dr Bateson said. “But obviously it’s important for women to feel confident about their particular contraception of choice and for women to know about all their different choices.”