Birth Control hiatus-- good or bad?
March 6, 2007 2:53 PM   Subscribe

Birth Control filter: Is it going to negatively affect my health if I skip taking my birth control pills for a month (during which time I will assuredly be abstinent) and then go right back on them once I'm back home where I can renew the prescription for cheap?

Here's the situation: my boyfriend is on a long vacation so I won't be getting any action for a month. As it happens, my birth control prescription needs to be renewed, but since I am currently out of my home state for the next couple weeks, I would have to pay 40 bucks to get my pills renewed for this next round of pills. (When I'm in my home state it's easy to get the prescription through my health insurance and it only costs a few dollars.)

I have just finished my last pack of Levlen 28 (which I've been on consistently for years, never skipping a month.) I'm wondering if I should shell out the 40 bucks to get an out-of-state prescription even though there is no way I will be having sex this month, just to keep my body from going through any unnecessary stopping/starting chemical hormone weirdness.

However, I don't know that such physical weirdness exists. Is it perfectly safe for me to stop taking my pills for one month's cycle, if I go back on them once I'm back home, exactly on the same day 4 weeks from now?

Of course, I would be careful for the first 7 days once I'm back on the pills, and use a condom, as if it were my first time taking the pills. I'm more concerned with whether or not there are any negative side effects to my body doing this on again-off again-on again thing.

posted by np312 to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Should be fine!

*not a doctor
posted by thirteenkiller at 2:57 PM on March 6, 2007

Perhaps I'm a bit out of the loop, but wouldn't you have to wait a month for the pills to start working again?
posted by acoutu at 3:01 PM on March 6, 2007

It may jack up your periods a bit, and it may take a couple of cycles to get everything back on schedule once you resume the pills.
posted by padraigin at 3:13 PM on March 6, 2007

I will second it could screw with your cycle, like you might have some heavy duty spotting for a month or so, or you may have nothing, but there will be nothing more than that.
posted by stormygrey at 3:19 PM on March 6, 2007

Like acoutu said. Doesn't it take a month to work? Or are these newfangled pills?
posted by dame at 3:35 PM on March 6, 2007

Stopping and starting again, for me, wasn't an issue as long as I kept to the strict 28 day cycle. However, I did always have a month of "ugh, don't touch me" hormone-downers whenever I restarted. YMMV. Also, I take my pills more for skin and cycle effects than for birth control, so I can't really speak to continued effectiveness with respect to the latter, but I do notice the skin problem flaring up between the pill months and some readjustment time is needed even after I go back on the pill.

The one time I went back on *and* had a stressful sleepless month *and* missed a couple of days of pills (always double-dosed the next day, as directed), my period was the most obnoxious, most crampy, longest, and heaviest it has ever been. I don't know what that means the hormones are doing to my innards, but that was the outward effect.
posted by olinerd at 3:35 PM on March 6, 2007

If you're fine with your body acting like it's never seen a birth control pill before, with all the attendant use of backup methods, weird bleeding, and crazy emotions, then your body should be fine with you taking a month off, according to what I hear.
posted by crinklebat at 3:38 PM on March 6, 2007

Call your doctor at home and have them call in a month's prescription to whatever pharmacy you prefer.
posted by wierdo at 3:39 PM on March 6, 2007

Oh, and if I misread, and the problem is that there isn't a pharmacy that will take your insurance, go to one of the big chains that is present at home.
posted by wierdo at 3:40 PM on March 6, 2007

I have heard from my doctor that you can stop at anytime. You may or may not experience symptoms you had before going on birth control. It's not a big deal at all.
However, once you go back, it takes a full cicle for you to be safe again.
posted by AnyGuelmann at 3:43 PM on March 6, 2007

The Pill is effective after seven days of continuous use, not a month (although there is some suggestion that it may not reach 99% effectiveness until after a month, it is still as effective as many other forms of birth control during that time). Also, my understanding is that you can start the pill at any time, not just after your period starts, so if you ended up going 5 or 6 weeks without the pill, you could start up again immediately with no real problems.

You may feel a little wonky with the hormone fluctuations, but it's not unsafe to do it.

not your doctor, etc. blah blah blah....
posted by stefanie at 3:58 PM on March 6, 2007

I have done this. It doesn't seem like a big deal. (not a doc)
posted by k8t at 4:18 PM on March 6, 2007

I've done this several times in the last several years for similar logistical reasons. No biggie. Didn't screw up my cycle, didn't give me mood swings or any other hormonal fluctuation-side effects, didn't cause breakthrough bleeding. Starting back up didn't give me any weirdness, either.

I was surprised, as my cycle on pills is sensitive enough that if accidentally skip a day, I'm likely to spot a bit.

YMMV, of course.
posted by desuetude at 4:24 PM on March 6, 2007

I've also been on Levlen 28 for years, and I've stopped for a month, a couple of times, with no ill effects whatsoever. Then again, I never had any real hormonal wackiness when I first started on it--my body's always been pretty happy with the Levlen.
posted by paleography at 4:26 PM on March 6, 2007

Your doctor or your insurance may refuse to play nice, but the national chains (like Rite-aid) can, with the right phone calls and so on, dispense your prescription wherever you are. When I've done this, the copay has been the same as it is at home, but this may depend on your insurance company; the pharmacy didn't see it as something to charge extra for.
posted by Forktine at 4:36 PM on March 6, 2007

Of course, I would be careful for the first 7 days once I'm back on the pills, and use a condom, as if it were my first time taking the pills.

When did it change to 7 days? When I started back on the pill in 2001, my doctor told me to wait a month before ditching the condoms.

When I went off the pill - for about a year - it took seven or eight months before my cycle stopped being irregular, and then going back on things were a bit wonky as well. So I would expect that to happen.

I'd be very surprised if anything serious happened.

IANAD, etc.
posted by joannemerriam at 6:02 PM on March 6, 2007

Check the packaging for your pills--it will tell you how long you need to use backup when you first start them. My Ortho-tri-cyclen packaging says I only need a week of using a backup method, but I remember my Doc saying to use condoms for a full cycle when he initially prescribed Yasmin (I switched to Ortho-Tri-Cyclen because it has a generic, which is hella cheaper. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor about this).

Also, next time you know you'll be out of town, ask the pharmacy for 2 packs if your insurance allows it. They're usually OK prescribing stuff like BC a month or two in advance for the sake of convenience.

That aside, other than a wonky cycle, you're in no danger.
posted by almostmanda at 6:24 PM on March 6, 2007

I second the idea of using a chain that exists in your home location and takes your insurance there. It may take a bit of doing but you should be able to get your pills where you are even if your insurance company isn't local to where you are now. You're not courting health problems by skipping your pills, but the other aspects of it make it worthwhile to at least give it a shot with Walgreens, Rite Aid or CVS or the like.
posted by Dreama at 8:18 PM on March 6, 2007

I'd get the pills. I went off my birth control for a month (like you, I'd been on it for years), and my body just totally flipped out. I suddenly got a real bad case of the flu out of nowhere, my period was really weird that month, my moods were totally out of control, and I just had a generally all-over weird feeling. A week or so after I went back on my BC, I felt fine again.

Personally, I'd shell out the $40 just to not have to go through that again, but YMMV, and IANAD.
posted by Verdandi at 8:40 PM on March 6, 2007

Is there a generic version of you pill-of-choice? That way you keep the hormones going on the (relatively) cheap.
posted by ilsa at 9:43 PM on March 6, 2007

When did it change to 7 days? When I started back on the pill in 2001, my doctor told me to wait a month before ditching the condoms.

The month thing is just a CYA for all brands that I'm aware of. When doctors tell new patients they have to use condoms for a month, it's mostly because they think you'll have trouble remembering to take a pill every day at first, which may well be true, but they ought to just say so.

Anyway, like everyone said, it's perfectly healthy to skip a month, but you may or may not have side effects when you stop and start again.
posted by Violet Hour at 10:22 PM on March 6, 2007

Call your doctor's office and ask to speak to his/her nurse. Give a brief explanation of your insurance situation, and ask if they have any sample packs of Levlen they could spare. My doctor's office usually gives me 2-3 free packs of my pills every year at my annual exam. They're swimming in 'em.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:08 AM on March 7, 2007

I accidentally skipped three pills in a row, and started bleeding right away, like a regular period. Since you are at the end of a cycle, and not in the middle, this may not happened to you. I'd keep some pantyliners around just in case.
Also, my pharmacy lets me get like 15 months worth at a time. Maybe because I get mine at the on-campus pharmacy?
posted by kidsleepy at 5:57 AM on March 7, 2007

The downside is that you might get really moody when you stop, and moody again when you start. But it shouldn't be bad for you.
posted by cotterpin at 7:12 AM on March 7, 2007

Of course, I would be careful for the first 7 days once I'm back on the pills, and use a condom, as if it were my first time taking the pills.

Just get the pills. Look at the cost-benefit analysis - to save $40 to $36 bucks you're going to have the possibility of an adverse physical reaction, increased risk of pregnancy, possibly decreased sexual satisfaction, and have to pay at least $6 for a box of condoms anyway, cutting into your cost.

The increased risk of pregnancy is small, but it's there, particularly since part of the risk factor of condoms is improper use and you and your boy are out of practice with them.

The sexual satisfaction issue might be your boys (using condoms), yours (using condoms - my darling girlfriend claims she finds the sensation less pleasurable with them, as have other women on AskMe when the subject has come up here), or yours (worry about increased risk of pregnancy).

All that aside, if you're paying more because you're out-of-network for health insurance you may be able to file a form for partial reimbursement. You could also call your normal pharmacy and see if they have any options for you - mail, etc.
posted by phearlez at 7:37 AM on March 7, 2007

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