If you’re like a large majority of the population of women, you use birth control as a means of either avoiding pregnancy, regulating hormones or even helping manage other issues like irregular cycles or disorders. Birth control methods such as the pill, patch, vaginal ring, shot and IUD can all impact your menstrual bleeding as they are directly connected to your hormone production and management. Some birth control methods can increase bleeding, and some can decrease it. Your cycle can either be longer, shorter, with a heavier or lighter flow than usual and may even be non-existent or spotty at best, all depending on the method of birth control you are using. Here, we share some of the most common forms of birth control and how they may affect your cycle:
Birth control pills. Typically these packages have 28 pills with 21 pills containing the hormone(s) required to suppress ovulation and 7 placebo pills that do not contain active ingredients. The 7 days of placebo are what prompt the menstrual cycle to take place. Today, there are a variety of regimens available, such as 24 days of active-ingredient pills and fewer days of placebo to allow for shorter period cycles. With this option, you can choose to either have your cycle or not at all. No matter the pills you choose, you may find that the first few months, your body is getting acquainted with the introduction of the pills. This can result in irregular spotting or bleeding during the first few months. In addition, once regulated, pills are meant to be taken consistently the same time of day each day, so a late dose or even a few missed doses can certainly cause a hiccup in the regimen which could also prompt spotting.
Injected and implanted contraceptives are known for being a longer-lasting and more impactful option. Irregular, unpredictable bleeding is very common in women using long-acting, progestin-based birth control methods like these. After a year of use, about half of women will cease having a period altogether while using these options.
Intrauterine devices, also known as IUDs, include the copper IUD and the progestin IUD. With the copper IUD, reports of spotting between periods and experiencing heavier, longer, more painful periods are common in the first 3-6 months of onset. Fortunately, many women share that their periods improve over time and resume after a few months back to a more typical cycle for them pre-IUD-placement.
With a progestin IUD, spotting between periods and irregular periods are common in the first three to six months as well. Usually, this improves over time with women ultimately having light periods or no longer bleeding at all with the progestin IUD. The progestin IUD can be effective for as many as 5 years before needing a new one reinserted.
Vaginal rings are small, flexible rings that are inserted high into the vagina and releases estrogen and progestin, which prevent ovulation. The vaginal ring is usually left in for three weeks then removed for the week that menstruation is preferred to take place. Spotting between periods may happen in the first few months as well, but soon after, cycles are regulated and a routine is set fairly easily.
Emergency contraceptives are known as ‘morning after’ pills which can significantly impact the menstrual cycle, causing your period to come earlier or later than you were expecting it to. Some women experience spotting between periods after taking emergency contraception. Your next menstrual cycle may also be slightly longer than normal, but if your next period is more than a couple of days late, it is a good idea to use a pregnancy test to confirm that the emergency option worked against conception. Because of its considerable effect on the body, emergency contraception is not to be used as a regular method of birth control but, if needed, it can help prevent unplanned pregnancies.
So, what do you do about these moments of irregular bleeding or spotting between cycles? Consider period panties that can work as a protective layer and absorb any untimely leaks. Also, consider talking to your doctor to ensure that the symptoms you are having are typical and not signs of something more serious or harmful.