Many menstruators choose to delay their menstrual cycles using hormonal birth control pills for various reasons, ranging from managing painful periods to addressing specific medical conditions. These oral pills combine hormones to alter menstruation patterns and prevent conception. However, the safety of skipping periods through this practice and its impact on overall health raises important questions. We spoke to Dr Aruna Kalra, Director, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram, who answered these questions and listed the safety considerations associated with this practice.
According to StatPearls, oral contraceptives come in two main types: the combined oestrogen-progesterone pill (referred to as the Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill (COC) and the Progesterone-Only Pill (POP). The combined hormonal pill, containing both oestrogen and progesterone, is the most frequently prescribed option.
Why Delay Your Period?
Delaying your period can serve various purposes, providing relief from menstrual symptoms and addressing specific medical conditions. Dr Kalra listed some of the situations in which a doctor might recommend delaying menstruation as follows:
Medical Conditions Aggravated by Menstruation
Conditions like endometriosis or iron deficiency anaemia, which worsen during menstruation, may be mitigated by delaying periods with hormonal pills.
Difficulty in Menstrual Management
Menstruators with physical or mental disabilities that hinder the use of sanitary napkins may be prescribed pills to facilitate menstrual management.
Pills may be prescribed to alleviate premenstrual symptoms, such as breast tenderness, bloating, or mood swings in the days leading up to the period.
Individuals experiencing heavy, prolonged, frequent, or painful periods may find relief through the use of hormonal pills.
Some may choose to delay menstruation for significant events like exams, athletic competitions, vacations, weddings, or honeymoon.
Safety Considerations When Delaying Periods
While it's generally safe to use hormonal birth control to delay periods, it's crucial to consider potential side effects and consequences. Also, consulting with a healthcare professional is essential.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your doctor might suggest against using the pill if you smoke, have a history of blood clots, or are older than 35.
Side Effects and Consequences
Dr Kalra listed side effects and consequences of birth control pills as follows:
Common during the initial months, breakthrough bleeding or spotting between periods tends to decrease over time as the body adjusts to the hormonal regimen.
Frequent period delays might lead to undetected pregnancies. Menstruators experiencing symptoms like morning sickness, nausea, breast tenderness, fatigue, or weakness should consider taking a home pregnancy test or consulting their doctor.
According to Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, the chances of ovulation may rise if pills are missing at the beginning of the pack and the days without active pills are prolonged.
According to the CDC, when used consistently and correctly, birth control pills have an effectiveness of over 99%. However, if a day is missed or the pill is taken late, the efficacy may decrease, with a failure rate of approximately 7%.
Oral contraceptive pill use can aggravate pre-existing hypertension in approximately 9-16% of women and produce hypertension in 4-5% of healthy women, as stated in StatPearls.
Dr Kalra concluded, “While delaying periods using hormonal birth control is generally safe, it's vital to weigh the benefits against potential side effects. Consulting with a healthcare professional ensures a personalised approach and understanding of any associated risks.”
[Disclaimer: This article contains information provided by a registered healthcare professional and is for informational purposes only. Hence, we advise you to consult your expert before taking birth control pills to avoid complications.]