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What’s the Real Deal with Birth Control Placebo Pills?

Everything you need to know about the Pill—and the purpose of birth control placebo weeks.

What’s the Real Deal with Birth Control Placebo Pills?

Periods suck. And on average, most women suffer through 450 menstrual cycles by the time they start menopause. According to the National Organization for Women, we spend over $18k on feminine hygiene products throughout our lifetime. Periods are just another thing that we manage, but an interesting topic has come to our attention as of late—if we’re not trying for a pregnancy, do we actually need periods?

If you’re on a contraceptive pill, you might not have known that skipping your period is an option. The standard 28-day birth control pack includes 21 days of active hormones, and seven days of inactive placebo pills. Those placebo pills are the reason you get your period each month. We’ll explain what no one tells us about birth control placebo pills, your options, and potential benefits of skipping your period. And, as with anything you read on the internet, it’s always best to talk to a trusted healthcare provider before changing anything in your routine. Now, without further ado:

How Birth Control Pills Work

Birth control pills were pioneered by Margaret Sanger—birth control activist, sex educator, writer, and nurseright after the Depression, in an attempt to help keep the population down. The Pill synthetically mimics female sex hormones progestin and estrogen, which stop ovulation. Controlling release of our eggs means there’s no need to prep the uterus for implantation. 

If women stopped ovulating while on birth control, there would be no release bleeding or shedding of the uterine lining—in other words, no period. Once the Pill finally went into clinical trials in the 1950s, a physician, John Rock, had one addition that would change the Pills effects entirely. 

Why Are Placebos Included In Birth Control?

If there were no placebos in the regiment of the Pill, women would no longer experience release bleeding (otherwise known as a monthly period).

Centuries of social norms against women (read: a bunch of older men thinking they know what’s best for us) influenced Dr. Rock to make the Pill mimic the natural cycle of menstruation so that it would be recognized as an acceptable form of contraception—i.e. keep women on a “normal” menstrual cycle, even though every month would mean more PMS, more bleeding, more suffering.

Is it Safe to Stop Taking Birth Control Placebo Pills? 

Since the 1970s, various medical studies have been conducted to test the benefits of skipping placebos and forgoing periods altogether. The benefits of missed periods, like the convenience to continue living our lives uninterrupted by unexpected bleeding, are revolutionary. According to physicians, there is no specific medical reason to continue taking placebo pills included in your birth control. Some physicians might even suggest alternative birth control methods to those who could benefit from reduced periods. This could be the answer for women who choose to not become pregnant, whether temporarily or permanently. 

The benefits are especially sturdy to those suffering from specific period-related conditions, such as mental health issues, PCOS, or endometriosis. Skipping periods can also help the 3-5% of women who historically exhibit an iron deficiency, compared to only 1% of men. Studies show promising results, but there’s still quite a bit to learn about the extended use of hormones and skipped periods. Currently, the medical community encourages women who are interested, to speak to their doctors about opting out of periods.

How to Safely Skip Birth Control Placebos And Put Your Period On Pause

If stopping periods sounds like something you’d like to try, we recommend asking your doctor. There are already many safe, alternative birth control options outside of the Pill that can help, including injections and implants. We encourage you to do your own research before your appointment, to make sure the discussion covers everything you’d like to know. 

Now you know what they never told us about birth control placebo pills, and can explore your options with confidence. It’s your right to choose, and to know all of your options. Don’t forget to pass new information around with your friends and family—the best way to break a stigma is by talking about it. 

At O Positiv, we’re here to help you manage and curb the symptoms that come with periods, if that’s what you choose. Follow us on social @OPositiv for PMS tips, tricks, and more. 

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