Preventing Your Period With Birth Control Comes at a Serious Price

birth control pills and calendarLet's say you've got a bunch of big events coming up in the next few months -- like a wedding, followed by a vacation, followed by a family get-together. And out of all the special occasions you're excited to prep for, your period is NOT one of them. But before you "cheat" and stop your period with birth control -- a practice some women believe allows them to "man up" and take control of not just their social calendar but their careers, according to a recent piece in the Daily Mail -- you better read this.

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By some accounts, 20 percent of women suppress their time of month -- all the time. It's damn convenient, not to mention super-easy to do.

If you're on the pill, all you do is skip the row of sugar pills and start on your next pack. Other forms of birth control including the Depo-Provera progesterone injection and progesterone-only pill also fool your body into thinking it doesn't have to bleed every month.

If you have hella bad periods, this sounds like bliss. No bloating, cramping, mood swings, etc.? Sure. And for women who suffer from a condition like endometriosis, it can be advisable in treating symptoms like super-heavy bleeding and pain.

But "convenience" doesn't necessarily mean "healthy."

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"The party line from traditional OB/GYNs is that it's safe to skip periods for as long as you want," says Sara Gottfried, MD, the New York Times bestselling author of The Hormone Reset Diet and The Hormone Cure. "But what I've found in clinical practice over the past 20 years is that women have more side effects on continuous oral contraception."

Side effects including spotting, those mood swings you were hoping to shake, and even weight gain.

"Experiencing menstruation, along with ovulation and a full fluctuation of hormones across your cycle, is good for bone, heart, and breast health and can protect against common causes of premature death in women like cardiovascular disease, strokes, and breast cancer," says Holly Grigg-Spall, author of Sweetening the Pill and consulting producer on the documentary of the same name by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein.

Not only that, but there's evidence, says Grigg-Spall, that replacing your normal hormone fluctuations with "a stream of synthetic hormones" can cause you to feel "depressed, anxious, low, and much less interested in sex, too."

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We're made to think that periods are "a lifestyle choice," Grigg-Spall says. But buying into that idea and stopping our periods for the long run may cause some serious health issues.

First thing is, you're upping your risk of having any of the already-documented adverse side effects of oral contraception -- things like blood clots and depression.

And while more long-term research needs to be done, we already know that suppressing your period "is associated with lower serum and urinary estrogen levels, which may lead to a greater risk of osteoporosis," says Dr. Gottfried.

If you have an important one-off reason to delay your period, go ahead and do it just this once, says Gottfried. And of course, follow your doctor's advice if your period's stopped altogether to control a medical condition like endometriosis or seizures.

But remember, "menstruation is not a disease," says Gottfried. "If it's painful or heavy, address the root cause rather than masking symptoms."

You may never "enjoy" your monthly bleed. But it IS an important part of your natural cycle your body is supposed to go through.

stopping period with birth control 

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