Well, there’s a way to stop them -- for months or even years. The answer is in your birth control.
Women often ask if it’s OK to stop their periods, says Tara Kumaraswami, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Massachusetts Medical School. They worry that the period is building up inside.
It’s not, Kumaraswami says. If you’re on birth control, it’s fine to not have a period. Talk to your doctor if you’re looking for a way to skip or lighten your periods. She can help you figure out what’s right for you. There are a lot of options. Here are a few.
IUD (Liletta, Kyleena, Mirena, and Skyla)
This is a small, T-shaped device made from flexible plastic that releases a hormone called progestin. A doctor puts it into your uterus. It can protect you from pregnancy for up to 5 years. Your period can come more often and last longer in the first 3-6 months and then space out or go away together.
Liletta, Kyleena, Mirena and Skyla work by making mucus in your cervix thicker so sperm can’t get in. They also make the lining of your uterus thinner and stop sperm from reaching or fertilizing your egg. Liletta and Skyla last for 3 years. Kyleena and Mirena last for 5.
Joyce Gottesfeld, MD, an OB/GYN with Kaiser Permanente Colorado, often prescribes IUDs for her patients. She says they are highly effective, and most of her patients who are on one don’t have their periods.
“It really does kill two birds with one stone,” she says.
There is also an IUD called ParaGard (also called the copper T IUD) which is a hormone-free option. The copper triggers your immune system to prevent pregnancy. It may cause your periods to be heavier at first but does not stop them. ParaGard can last up to ten years.
In most cases, you take pills with hormones for 21 days. Then, for 7 days, you take those that don’t have hormones. For many women, it’s safe to skip the ones without the hormones -- and skip your period.
There may even be some health benefits to using them to skip your period, especially if it’s heavy. They can help prevent anemia, keep your skin clearer, and lower your risk of ovarian and uterine cancers.
Birth Control Shot (Depo-Provera)
You’ll get a shot of hormones in your arm that’ll protect you from pregnancy for 3 months. It’s one of the most effective forms of birth control and works best if you get it every 12 weeks. It doesn’t have estrogen, a hormone that is found the pill and other types of birth control. So you can get the shot if you’re breastfeeding or can’t take estrogen.
Most women will have fewer and lighter periods with it. Half of the women who use it will stop having periods after being on it for a year.
Gottesfeld says side effects can include irregular spotting and bleeding and mood changes. She says one of the drawbacks is that if you hate it or have side effects, you’re stuck with it for 3 months.
The other downside is that you have to go in every 3 months to get the shot, says Roxanne Jamshidi, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. And, she says, if you decide you want to get pregnant, it may not happen right away. Finally, Depo-Provera could also make you gain weight.
Birth Control Implant (Nexplanon)
This is a rod about the size of a matchstick that’s put under the skin in your arm. It lasts up to 3 years. As with the shot, most women who get it will have lighter or fewer periods. A third of women who take it won’t have periods after a year. But some women get heavier, longer periods or spotting or bleeding between periods.
“The nice thing about this is that if somebody gets it and they don’t like it, you can take it out,” Gottesfeld says.
Vaginal Ring (NuvaRing)
Hormones released by this small, flexible ring stop eggs from leaving your ovaries much like oral contraceptives do. You put the ring into your vagina and wear it for 3 weeks in a row. You take it out in the 4th week; that’s usually when you get your period. But you can stop your period if you wear it for three week, take it out, and put in a new one. Don’t worry if you spot or bleed for the first 6 months, though. That’s a normal side effect and usually goes away.