Photo by Raychel Mendez.An NPR piece earlier this month asked, “Do women need periods?” It immediately went viral, sparking a massive conversation on social media. Call Your Girlfriend covered the role of Catholicism in inventing the “Pill period.” Last year’s similar article from The Atlantic resurfaced.
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People who menstruate sounded off, from mothers to teens, soldiers to sex workers, trans men to intersex folks. As I watched these reactions scroll down my timeline, I had a secret that I’ve rarely shared: I’ve been skipping my periods — yes, all of them — since June of 2009.
I’m not a doctor. I can’t give you medical advice. But I can tell you, candidly, about my personal experience with 83 period-free months, so far.
The Un-Gory Details
In 2009 I temporarily lost my health insurance. With it went my old, expensive ob-gyn. Planned Parenthood introduced me to a seven-months-pregnant, hilarious young gynecologist named Siri. In between stories about kids confusing her with the voice in their iPads, Dr. Siri casually informed me, “You don’t have to have periods if your body tolerates hormonal birth control, you know.”
I jumped on that shit like white on rice.
Here’s how it works: I take Microgestin FE 1/2o, a cheap generic hormonal birth control pill. Scriptdash delivers it to my door. My doctor writes my prescription with enough refills to get a new pack every 21 days instead of 28. I throw out my placebo pills every month and start a new pack.
The exact kind of birth control I take, photographed by lookcatalog.
For the first few months, I had occasional breakthrough bleeding. (Siri warned me that might happen.) It never lasted more than a day or two and didn’t come with painful cramps. It was, however, unpredictable and annoying.
Six months in, my then-boyfriend suggested that my uterus was probably filling up with un-shed bloody lining, month after month after month. (It’s not.) I panicked, took my placebos that month, and had the worst period of my life. Shouting, “This is your fault!” at the boyfriend through the bathroom door, I vowed never to take the placebo pills again, as long as my body tolerated skipping periods. So far, so good.
Cute Undies, Cheap Travel and Other Benefits
Here’s an abbreviated list of what’s great about having no period for seven years:
I haven’t had to throw out panties before their time in years.Those ultra-specific LivingSocial travel deals, valid only in third weeks of June-through-September, when there’s a full moon, Celine Dion is in a good mood, and Aries is in the house of Gryffindor? No missing out on those because they don’t sync with my period.No. Fucking. Cramps.
No risk of anemia from long/heavy periods.If a dude is unwise enough to attribute my emotions to my period, I’ve got a pretty strong counter-argument to deploy in the 30 seconds between his comment and me cutting his negativity out of my life.
Overall, I’m thrilled. I don’t want biological children, so I’m hoping that my body will stay cool with HBC long enough to take me all the way through to menopause. We can do it, uterus!
Photo by Paval Hadzinski.I miss out on the female bonding that starts with “Does anyone have a tampon?” It’s surprisingly socially awkward to present as female and NOT have tampons in your house/purse/desk.Your monthly period changes vaginal pH to a less yeast-friendly level. Without a period, it’s easier to get yeast infections.Insurance companies act like they’ve never heard of continuous birth control. I have to fight to get refills on my 21-day schedule.For a while, pregnancy test purchases (have to confirm you’re not pregnant somehow without a period) made Amazon think I was trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. My suggested items list got weird.I change ob-gyns pretty often, and some of them haven’t approved of my skipping periods for so long. That makes me a little worried.Sometimes I wonder if I’m a bad hippie and/or a bad feminist for using modern medicine to get rid of an inconvenient part of having a uterus.
Rumors and Bloody Untruths
I hear a lot of myths about period-skipping, starting with that same old chestnut about your uterine lining building up. (I’ve even had people swear to me they knew someone who had pounds of built-up blood removed!) That’s not going to happen. Here are a few other things that also probably won’t happen if you decide to go without your Pill periods, assuming that your body tolerates the Pill already.
Weight gain/loss: The biggest change is going from no HBC to HBC, not going from Pill periods to no periods. Pill periods aren’t real periods. I didn’t experience any weight gain when I canceled my monthly bleeding.
Low sex drive: Like the whole weight fluctuation thing, unless you especially love period sex, this probably won’t change just because you’re not having withdrawal bleeding. It might change if you’re newly starting the Pill.
Not feeling “normal” or “like a real woman”: That’s some transphobic bullshit. If you define being a woman based on menstrual cycle, you’re wrong. Period.
Mood/psychological effects: If you have mental illness, it’s probably a good thing to talk to your therapist before you make changes in how you take your birth control. Personally, the only changes in my mood were positive, and are directly related to not being in pain 3–5 days out of every 28.
Again, I’m not a doctor — but it doesn’t take a doctor to see that a lot of society’s fears about skipping periods have more to do with culture than medicine. We think of periods as one of the big differences between men and women. (They’re not .) Many world religions still view a monthly period as a curse/blessing/edict from God. Even if you’re not religious, and not particularly attached to the gender binary, there still can be something vaguely disquieting about the idea of a world where periods are much less common than they used to be. But, for me and many others, that world is already real, and it’s time we started talking openly about it.
Shark Day, by Eugenia Loli.
I can only speak to my own, positive experience with continuous birth control. I still have many questions for others. Maybe you can answer one of them?
If you’ve gotten pregnant on purpose after skipping periods for a long time, I’d love to hear how long it took you. If you got pregnant on accident while skipping periods, I’m curious about that, too. If you’ve been skipping for even longer than I have, please share your story, whether good or bad! I’m curious about how trans guys on hormone replacement are choosing to handle this, too. For those just starting continuous BC, how’s it going?