What contraception stops your periods?

Whether you find having a regular period useful and reassuring, or painful and disruptive, it’s good to know how contraception can change your menstrual cycle.

If you want to use contraception to stop your period – or make it less frequent – you can do this safely with combined methods that give you control of when you bleed.

Combined hormonal contraception

Combined methods of contraception (ones that use both oestrogen and progestogen) have a much more consistent and controllable effect on your period.

With a combined pill, patch or ring, you’ll bleed when you have the 7 or 4 day break from using the contraception.

This is not exactly the same as a period. It’s actually called a withdrawal bleed, which is your body’s response to the fall in hormone levels during the break. And it’s usually lighter than your usual period.

Because you’ll only bleed when you take a break from the contraceptive, when you choose to break is when you choose to bleed. If you do not have a break and use the contraception continuously, for example, continuing on to the next pack of combined pills without taking 7 days off in between packs, you often will not bleed at all.

See more about taking combined methods continuously here.

Progestogen only contraception

Progestogen only methods, like the progestogen only pill, the implant, the injectable contraceptive and the hormonal coil, might stop your periods. But they do not do this consistently – so it’s hard to predict how it will affect your bleeding.

For some people, it will stop their periods completely. For others, it can make their period lighter and less often, or they get irregular bleeding that’s manageable. But it can also have the opposite effect – heavier, more frequent bleeding. You cannot know how a progestogen only method will affect your period until you try it.

Why do some methods stop your periods?

Progestogen only methods stop your periods in two ways:

  • they thin the lining of the womb so there’s very little blood or tissue to lose

  • for some people, they stop an egg being released each month (ovulation) so stop all the effects of the menstrual cycle that happen at this time

If you do not have any bleeding on a progestogen only method, then you’re probably not ovulating. Stopping ovulation increases the contraceptive’s effectiveness as there is no egg to fertilise.

Combined hormonal contraception almost always stops ovulation – this is the main way it works to prevent unwanted pregnancy. They stop the changes in your menstrual cycle that are associated with ovulation and give you a very constant level of oestrogen and progestogen.

As long as you continue to take the pill then the lining of your womb stays thin and there’s nothing to trigger bleeding.

When you stop the combined method for a 4 or 7 day break then your hormone levels drop and this triggers bleeding. This withdrawal bleed is usually shorter and lighter than a normal period because the lining of the womb is thin.

Does it harm my body if I don’t have a period every month?

No, your body is not harmed. Not ovulating every month is something that the body can do naturally - for example during breastfeeding.

There’s also no harm related to thinning the lining of the womb, in fact, this is associated with a decreased risk of cancer of the lining of the womb.

Reviewed by Helen Burkitt. Senior Sexual Health and Contraception Nurse
Last updated at: 09 December 2022