Nicki Butler is a psychology junior and Mustang News opinion columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, so let me rephrase.
Ditching my period was the best and easiest decision I’ve ever made.
I will tell anyone who will listen that I don’t get my period anymore. I know bragging is frowned upon, but I feel like I’ve got this secret that half the world doesn’t know about. When I pitched this story in our writer’s room, I was met with so many dumbfounded faces (including one very confused, probably male, face.) Now it’s very possible that the shock they gave off was because I was offering to write about my period, but I’m going to choose to believe that they were shocked that you can opt-out of your period.
I completely understand the shock; it is shocking news. When my doctor told me I could choose not to have my period, I didn’t believe her.
Sure I’ll just opt out of my period. While I’m at it, I’ll opt-out of shitting, too.
But after several moments of explaining, I finally understood. If you simply take your birth control pills continuously — skipping the week of placebo pills — you will never get your period.
The first of many stupid questions I asked was: “But doesn’t the lining in my uterus need to shed? Where will my shedded uterus go?”
My doctor simply replied: “You aren’t smart enough to know how dumb of a question that is, but trust me, it isn’t a problem.”
That was enough explanation for me. My doctor was giving me a chance to stop the bleeding, cramping, and fainting that so many people who menstruate experience every three weeks. As I began my period-free life, I started to wonder, why don’t more people know that you don’t have to have your period? After all, people truly hate getting their period.
There are seldom things more gut-wrenching than the words ‘getting your period.’ If there were a definitive ranking of phrases with the most negative connotation, ‘getting your period’ would fall between ‘The Titanic’ and ‘the in-laws are coming.’
Yet, so many people don’t know that for birth control users, your period is 100% optional. I’ve gotten a myriad of comments on this topic over the course of my three-year long freedom from menstruation.
Many people have said “You skip your placebo pills? That’s really unhealthy.”
Or, “I would skip my placebo pills, but I don’t want to mess with my body.”
These comments were surprising but didn’t deter me. I simply told them that my doctor said it was perfectly healthy. But now, at the ripe old age of 20, I’ve begun to wonder…
Why is there a stigma around skipping your period?
Why don’t more people know that you can skip your period?
If getting your period is truly not important while on birth control, why were placebo pills even put in birth control packs in the first place?
Finally, why is it perfectly healthy to skip your period? What is the medical mystery that I was too stupid to understand at 17?
I had my annual physical a few days ago, and I brought all of these questions to my doctor. While she checked my heartbeat, looked at my ears and felt my breasts for lumps, I bombarded her with my most pressing questions.
I began to understand the era that birth control was invented in. Research and development of “the pill” were pushed into the forefront of the medical community by Margaret Sanger in partnership with Planned Parenthood. Even as early as the 1950s, Planned Parenthood was doing important work for reproductive rights and protection.
Although the development of the first birth control pill was spearheaded by male scientists, much of the credit goes to the ancient medical traditions of descendants of the Aztecs. Russell Marker, one of the leading scientists doing this research, found generations of Mexican womxn who had been eating a specific wild yam as contraception. When combined with estrogen, the progestin inside of these yams formed the first birth control pill.
But why were the placebo pills added? Why not just take the active birth control pills and avoid menstruation all together?
When testing the pill, it was found that many individuals wanted to have their period, so that they could confirm that they were not pregnant. Another reason to add the placebo pills was actually in an effort to appease the pope of the Roman Catholic Church at the time. John Rock, one of the developers of the pill, was hoping that by replicating the natural cycle of menstruation, the Pope would be more likely to approve of it. He was very wrong, and the Pope vehemently disapproved of the pill.
I was shocked to learn that those were some of the only reasons that placebo pills were instituted. I had simply assumed that the placebo pills were an important part of taking birth control. But now I understand that birth control pills prevent your egg from dropping into your uterus, and therefore, the lining of your uterus does not thicken, leaving nothing to shed.
There is so much fear and stigma that not having a period is unhealthy or unclean. But just as there is absolutely nothing dirty about having a period, there is nothing wrong with choosing not to have a period.