For centuries having a period has been considered a sign of womanhood. However, for many, it is only an annoying monthly occurrence to deal with. New research has shown that actually, periods have no health benefits and that skipping them is perfectly acceptable from a medical point of view. Therefore, having a period is now a choice.

Many contraceptives at the moment already allow for very light to none-existing periods, such as the contraceptive implant, the injection, the intrauterine system, and the progesterone-only pill. Nonetheless, the most common type of birth control, the combined pill, still allows for the option of taking a break every three weeks, in which there is bleeding.

Recent research has shown that that break is neither necessary nor beneficial for health.

Two-thirds of women aged 20-24 use the combined birth control pill. If you are on combined birth control, skipping periods is as simple as not taking the placebo pills and starting another pack right away. However, the fact that these placebo pills existed in the first place made it seem like they were necessary, and that taking a break was desirable.

However, the UK’s Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health (FSRH) recently updated its guidelines to state that there were no health benefits to taking a break in combined birth control pills.

The press has called this break the ‘Pope Rule’, explaining that since the scientist behind the combined birth control pill, John Rock, was Catholic, he created the placebo pills to make taking contraceptive more acceptable to the Catholic Church.

However, Jane Dickson, Vice President of the FSRH has stated in an interview that the placebo pills were actually originally designed to let women’s bodies take a break from the high levels of hormones that the pill had, as well as for helping women confirm that they were not pregnant. However, she has stated that the pills that in the market at the moment have much lower dosages of hormones, and that therefore it is safe for women to not take a break.

She has stressed that: “Research over the last ten years or so has demonstrated that there is actually no medical reason to have a break. We also know that many women are troubled by symptoms due to their break.”

The seven-day break has, in fact, been linked to headaches, mood changes, and heavy and painful monthly bleeding, as well as an increased risk of ovulation, which would make the pill less effective. Many women also have these symptoms with their period without being on birth control. According to a recent survey of 7,500 women by Public Health England, half those aged 16-64 reported menstrual issues in the last year, rising to 75% of those aged 16-24. They also have to spend lots of money on (not cheap) sanitary products for their periods.

Having a period should be a lot more normalized. After all, it affects 50% of the world’s population. We should be able to talk about it without it being taboo. However, there are also many women who don’t bleed. Blood is no longer (and it never should have been) a sign of womanhood. Therefore, it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to choose whether she wants to have a period, particularly now that it has been proven that it doesn’t come with any risks to their health.

If periods are not necessary, why shouldn’t we avoid them?

It is, of course, not a simple choice. The only way to avoid periods (besides pregnancy and certain health conditions) is by using birth control. Different types of birth control have different efficiency rates as well as side effects. Although light to no bleeding is one of them, there are more such as mood swings, weight-gaining, and migraines. These effects vary greatly depending on each individual. However, it is perfectly reasonable to choose to go on birth control to avoid bleeding.

We should not feel ashamed for bleeding; we need it to accept it as a normal part of our bodies. But we should also not feel ashamed of choosing not to bleed.

  • Beatriz Valero de Urquía

    Beatriz Valero de Urquia is a historian, writer and journalist. She graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2020 and spends her time between Spain and the UK reading, listening to musicals and writing her first novel.