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Do women need periods?

Is it medically necessary to have a period every month? Tia Guster, M.D., a Piedmont obstetrician and gynecologist, shares her thoughts.

“You don’t need to have a period every month if you are a healthy individual,” says Dr. Guster. “It’s kind of an old wives’ tale, because your menstrual cycle was so linked to your fertility that the thought was you had to have one monthly. But you can definitely alter that.”

A menstrual cycle is a setup for egg fertilization, says Dr. Guster.

“Your body is trying to set up a lush environment for the egg and the sperm [once they meet] to settle in and make a child. If fertilization does not occur, then you have a menstrual cycle, meaning you shed the lining of the uterus. It’s basically a signal that you are not pregnant that month.”

How do women skip periods?

Many women use short-term contraceptives like birth control pills to skip their periods.

“I get this request all the time from people who are planning their wedding or going on vacation,” says Dr. Guster.  “And they just don’t want to have a period at that time. It’s short term, and it’s totally reasonable in someone who is a healthy individual.”

Some women are given medication to suppress their periods due to certain medical conditions. 

“There are some ladies who suffer from endometriosis, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroid symptoms, or anemia,” says Dr. Guster. “And for the greater sake of their health, it is better for them to have their menstrual cycle suppressed. Endometriosis can be very painful and uncomfortable, and that can be a barrier to fertility in the future. So suppressing your period can be a way to control endometriosis from getting worse and causing you more harm.” 

Suppressing periods is also good for women who have heavier periods or anemia and suffer from low blood count. And women who have fibroids, but can’t undergo the uterine fibroid embolization surgery, also benefit from having their periods suppressed.

And when women are put on long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) like the IUD, they have decreased menstruation and sometimes no period at all.

Can suppressing your period affect fertility?

It shouldn’t, says Dr. Guster.

“As long as you aren’t doing permanent sterilization, the majority of birth control pills are actually reversible,” says Dr. Guster. “We recommend LARCs because they are great for contraception, the efficacy is really close to sterilization, but when you stop, you go back to your normal fertility.”

Taking birth control pills to suppress your period should also have no effect on fertility.

“The pill is a daily contraceptive, so it really wears off in 24 hours,” says Dr. Guster. “The ring is generally monthly contraception, so when you take it out it will wear off as well. And when they wear off, you can get pregnant.”

Certain medications, like the birth control shot Depro Provera, may delay the return of your period after you stop taking them. But eventually your menstrual cycle should return to normal.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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