Skipping Your Period With a Triphasic Pill, Part I
I've been getting a lot of questions about using a triphasic birth control pill brand and skipping a period. Before we discuss what regimen you use to skip your period with a triphasic Pill brand, let's make sure we're all clear on the differences between the various pill brands.
We'll discuss extended triphasic regimens in a subsequent post.
There are two groups of birth control pills:
A. Nonsteroidal (centchroman)
B. Steroidal (estrogen/progestin)
This type of birth control pill contains a substance called centchroman.
The pill is taken once-a-week (twice-a-week for the first 3 months of use), the brand names are Centron or Saheli, and its main advantage is that users don't experience the side effects associated with the steroid (estrogen/progestin) pill. Its main side effect is delayed menses (in less than 10% of cycles). Of course, if the reason you're using a birth control pill is to skip your period, this is a feature not a drawback.
In any case, since this pill isn't available in the U.S., let's move on to the other Pill group, the steroidal one.
Pills in this group contain estrogen and/or progestin. The pill is taken once-a-day, and there are many brand names. More importantly, pills in this group can be further subdivided, based on what type of hormone (estrogen/progestin) they contain.
There are two main types of birth control pills in this group:
B.1. Progestin-only Pill (progestin)
B.2. Combination Pill (estrogen and progestin)
As the name implies, these pills have only one hormone, a progestin. A progestin is either a natural or man-made (synthetic) hormone with properties similar to the natural hormone progesterone.
Progestin-only pill brands are divided into "mini" pill brands, and full-dose brands (not available in the U.S.). As a rule, "mini" pill brands come in 28-day packs, and full-dose ones come in 20-day packs.
Progestin-only brands are not your first choice when it comes to skipping your period.
These pills have two hormones, a combination of estrogen and progestin.
Combination Pill brands are further subdivided into mono-, bi-, and triphasic; some come in a 21-day pack, others in a 28-day one, and the newer ones, Seasonale and Seasonique, comes in a 91-day pack. Finally, based on the amount of estrogen, brands are classified as very low-dose (15 mcg or 20 mcg), low dose (35 mcg), and high dose (50 mcg).
All the pills in a 21-day pack are active. An active pill is a pill which has hormones. The 28- and 91-day packs have 7 days of inactive or placebo ("sugar") pills. These pills don't have hormones.
The mono-, bi-, and triphasic designation refers to the amount of hormones in the pill pack.
Each active pill in the pack has the same amount of estrogen and progestin. Also, all the active pills are the same color. This color is a different color than that of the 7 placebo pills found in the 28- and 91-day packs.
For most brands, all the active pills in the pack have the same amount of estrogen, but two strengths of progestin.
A 21-day biphasic pack has pills of one strength and color taken for seven or 10 days, then a second pill with a different strength and color for the remainder of the cycle.
A 28-day biphasic pack has an extra seven placebo pills of a third color.
For a 28-day brand like Mircette, a pack has 21 pills of one strength [20 mcg ethinyl estradiol (EE)/0.15 mg desogestrel] and color, 2 placebo pills of a different color, and 5 pills with only estrogen, of a different strength [10 mcg (EE)] and color.
Of note, Mircette is one of the few available sequential brands with a shortened placebo interval: 2 days vs. 7 days. The shortened placebo interval has to do with withdrawal bleeding (fake period) which is different from menses (real period). [More on birth control pill brands with no or shortened placebo interval.]
The active pills have either the same or varying amounts of estrogen, and varying amounts of progestin.
A 21-day pack has pills with three different colors and strengths. First, pills of one strength and color are taken for five to seven days. Then pills of a different strength and color are taken for the next five to seven days. Finally, a third strength and color pill is taken for the reminder of the cycle.
A 28-day pack (look under triphasics) has an extra seven placebo pills of a fourth color.
So, there you have it. Lots of birth control pill types, and brands. The important thing to remember is this:
A monophasic combination Pill brand is best because all active pills contain the same amount of hormones. Less hormonal fluctuation, due to the steady hormone levels, means you're less likely to experience nuisance side effects like irregular bleeding (breakthrough bleeding/spotting).
TIP: Regardless of which type of brand you use--monophasic or triphasic--starting an extended regimen at least three months in advance of the time you plan to skip your period allows your body to get used to the new regimen, and minimizes irregular bleeding.
If you use a monophasic Pill brand, to skip a period you take the 21 active pills, discard the 7 placebo pills, and start a new pack right away.
If you use a triphasic Pill brand you have several regimen options. One of them is to use the same regimen used for the monophasic brands--take the 21 active pills, discard the 7 placebo pills, and start a new pack right away. [Note: this regimen is mostly likely to be associated with irregular bleeding.]