The New No-Period, No-PMS Birth Control Pills
Are new continuous birth control pills right for you?
The hormones in today's birth control pills are "a little more forgiving than in the past," Estes tells WebMD. "With standard birth control pills, you really had to take them at the same time every day or risk ovulating. With the new pills, you have a few hours' leniency. If you forget to take your morning pill, you can still take it at lunch time and not worry."
Just as with standard birth control pills, fertility returns within one or two months of stopping, says Estes. But that's not a promise. "Not everyone can get pregnant in one to two months," he tells WebMD. "It can take time, just as with regular birth control pills."
Is It Natural to Stop Your Menstrual Period?
In the early days of extended-cycle birth control pills, women were concerned about the health risks of stopping or suppressing their periods. In fact, monthly bleeding is really not necessary -- and suppressing it has no impact on health, Estes says.
Ross concurs: "There's no risk to suppressing the monthly period. If a woman is having bad menstrual cycles, there's no reason why she needs to have a period. But I have a lot of patients who are reassured by having one every few months, especially if they're worried about pregnancy."
Long-Term Safety of Birth Control Pills
For women taking birth control pills of any type, there is increased risk of blood clots, especially for smokers and women over 35. "The risk is going to be the same whether you're taking a continuous pill or a standard birth control pill," Estes says.
Also, there is increased risk of developing cervical cancer, which drops quickly once the pill is stopped. Taking oral contraceptives for five or more years was associated with a doubling of cervical cancer risk. The risk returns to that of never-users within a decade of stopping oral contraceptives.
What’s the Breast Cancer Risk From Birth Control Pills?
Some women worry: Is there long-term risk of breast or other hormone-fueled cancers?
"The best data we have about birth control pills and breast cancer is that there is no link," Estes says. "We have to extrapolate what we know about conventional birth control pills. But we have no reason to believe your risk of breast cancer will increase over your lifetime because of continuous-use birth control pills."
While hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been linked to a slight increased risk of breast cancer, the hormones used in birth control pills are different. "These are different estrogens and progestins than are used in HRT, explains Ross. “They have been studied since the 1960s, and good data suggests what's good and not good about them. Breast cancer has never been one of the concerns with birth control pills."
Also, there is no increased risk to the uterus or uterine lining (the endometrium), he says.