If you’re anything like me, I really didn’t know that much about what was happening with my period when I was on the pill. I actually wish I knew half this shit ten years ago.
But, nevertheless, hopefully you read this earlier in your life than me! We have all the FAQ’s answered on your menstruation cycle and the pill. Let’s get egg-cited!
Do I still ovulate when taking the pill?
Nope. If you’re using a combination method correctly (containing both oestrogen and progesterone), then you don’t ovulate (I know, I was just as surprised).
The hormones in the pill stop the egg from being released, so there’s nothing for the tadpoles to fertilise. As a result, tracking your ovulation cycle on the pill is a bit pointless.
With the combination pill, any risk of pregnancy is due to human error, not the pill itself (e.g. forgetting to take that little sucker when you’re hungover). The whole idea is that the hormones from the pill need to accumulate to a certain level in your body that stops you from ovulating (if you don’t ovulate, there’s no way you can get pregnant – see our article on period cycles here). However, if you skip a few pills in a row, the hormones decrease, and you’ll be at risk of ovulating.
Do I still get a real period on the pill?
Nope, you don’t actually get a “real” period if you’re taking the pill correctly. Instead, this is called withdrawal bleeding or a fake period.
So, what actually is withdrawal bleeding? When you’re taking the pill, your hormone levels remain steady. Therefore, you won’t get the regular thickening and shedding of your uterus lining that was discussed here. Instead, it remains thin the entire time you’re taking the pill, so there’s no requirement for a regular period.
This makes sense, because the only reason it needs to thicken is to support an early pregnancy. Having no hormones (or taking the sugar pills) in week 4 of your pill cycle softens the thin uterus lining just enough to allow some bleeding. This is the withdrawal bleeding. This is generally why people experience a lighter period with fewer cramps while taking the pill.
Interestingly, there’s actually no biological or medical reason why you should have your period while taking the pill. It was literally just the pill developers thinking that women would be used to a monthly period and like the reassurance of this (what the actual fuck I hear you say?! I guess we can safely assume men developed the contraceptive pill). They also thought that if the pill mimicked a regular cycle, there would be less religious backlash and more public acceptance.
If I don’t have my period regularly on the pill, won’t my uterus lining build up?
There’s no reason why you need to have your period while taking the pill. You don’t need to “shed” your uterus lining every few months because the lining isn’t building up.
However, some people do experience breakthrough bleeding if they continually skip their period. While this spotting isn’t problematic, the experts recommend chatting with your doc if this happens a lot, as it might be worth trialling a different pill. It doesn’t mean the pill isn’t working, but it’s a pain in the ass.
If I continually skip my period, will I keep all the eggs in my ovaries and delay the onset of menopause?
My number one question – I’ve always wondered about this. If I’ve been on the pill for 10 years, and haven’t ovulated, do the eggs in my ovaries stay banked up?
The answer is no. As we found out here, we lose around 1000 eggs from our ovaries every month, and this still continues to happen when you’re taking the pill. The only thing that won’t happen is that one egg won’t mature enough to be released into the fallopian tube.
Keep in mind sisters…
It’s completely up to you and your body when it comes to your period and the pill. Some people like to continue to mirror their natural cycle and have it every month. Others prefer to skip skip skip. It’s your body, so you decide what works for you. The most important thing to remember is that women are fucking fabulous – and periods are an important part of what makes us so amazing.