No matter how predicable your period is, there are times when you dread it.
In the middle of a long-planned vacation? Check.
A crucial athletic match, exams, or your prom? Check, check, and check.
There are multiple ways to stop your period -- for weeks, months, or even years -- by using birth control. Doctors call this menstrual suppression. Some methods are more effective than others for a long-term pause. But for most women, menstrual suppression is low-risk.
Of course, planning around events isn’t the only reason you’d want to stop your periods. For some, monthly cycles come with heavy bleeding, severe pain, or migraines. Others have medical issues like endometriosis, bleeding disorders, or anemia.
Still others want to skip their periods just because.
How It’s Done
Stopping your period relies on birth control methods that use hormones. These methods include:
- The pill
- Certain intrauterine devices (IUDs)
- Vaginal rings
No method eliminates your period completely. And all carry the potential for breakthrough bleeding, the unpredictable bleeding between your periods.
Pills: Combination birth control pills (COCs) are the most widely used method for pausing your cycle. They have two hormones and typically come in a pack of 28 -- 21 days of hormone-containing pills and some placebo, or inactive, pills.
To stop your period, you’d start a new pack of hormone-containing pills after 21 days and keep taking them until you’re ready to have your period.
Amethyst is the first birth control pill approved by the FDA for continuous use. It provides a low-dose hormone combination that can be taken for 365 days without placebo pills.
Drawbacks? Remembering to take a daily pill may be tough for some. The risks associated with continuous use of COCs are the same as regular use -- a slight possibility of blood clots and stroke. Chances of those are higher in women who smoke, are older than 35, or have high blood pressure.
The IUD: Adding the hormone progestin to an IUD helps treat heavy menstrual bleeding. About half of women who use a hormone-containing IUD stop having periods 6 months after it’s put in. For another 25%, periods happen less often, but don’t stop. The hormone-containing IUD can stay in place and work for 3 to 5 years, depending on the brand. The upside to IUDs is you don’t have to remember to do anything daily or monthly.
Patches and vaginal rings: These work like birth control pills, with 21 days on their dual hormones and 7 days off. The 2-inch patch goes on your stomach, bottom, back, or upper arm. To pause your period, you’d attach another hormone-containing patch after 21 days. There is some evidence that long-term patch use may put you at greater risk for deep vein clots (VTE).
Vaginal rings are flexible plastic devices that contain the same hormones as combination birth control pills. To stop your period, you would leave the ring in place for 3 weeks, then replace it with a new one. Vaginal rings provide steadier doses of hormones than birth control patches or pills.
A special type of vaginal ring, called segesterone acetate (Annovera), can be left in for up to a year. If that seems more your style, ask your doctor about it.
It’s important to know that the vaginal ring also slightly raises your chances of toxic shock syndrome. In more cases, women have discharge, discomfort, and mild irritation when using the vaginal ring.
Shots: Birth control shots are one of the most effective ways to stop your period.
At first, you may have a lot of bleeding. This eventually goes away, and the shots do a good job of stopping your period. Nearly 75% of women have no periods after a year of use, although breakthrough bleeding is very common.
Birth control shots are taken every 90 days. Many women may not want or have time to visit the doctor that many times per year. Weight gain is a side effect of this method. Potential bone loss is possible too, although it’s reversible once you stop getting the shots.
Implants: These consist only of the hormone progestin. A thin rod is placed under the skin on the inside of your upper arm. It lasts for up to 3 years. Like an IUD, there’s nothing to remember to do. Implants ease the bleeding that happens during your period. But they completely stop periods in less than 25% of those who have them. Implants are the least effective method for stopping your cycle.
Which Way Is Right for Me?
If you want to cut down on the number of periods you have per year, then experts suggest standard birth control pills, patches, or the vaginal ring. To stop your period long-term, birth control shots, long-term pills, and the IUD typically work best. Speak with your doctor about it. You’ll work together to figure out which method is best for you.