Posted: September 17, 2015 Contributor: PRJKT RUBY

Tips for Reducing Breakthrough Bleeding While on the Pill

Most women enjoy the predictability that comes with taking hormonal birth control. You know when you reach the sugar pills that your period should be arriving shortly. Sometimes, however, breakthrough bleeding occurs (bleeding between periods) and this can be annoying and unpredictable. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to reduce the frequency with which breakthrough bleeding occurs.

What is Breakthrough Bleeding?
Breakthrough bleeding occurs outside of the normal menstruation time and is typically due to your hormone levels. The most common times that you will notice this are when you first start taking the pill, switch birth control brands or change your regimen in any way.

Why Does it Happen?
Most commonly, those on birth control notice breakthrough bleeding or spotting when their body is attempting to adjust to hormone dosages. The way our bodies metabolize hormones are as unique as we are. For some, the process may be fast while for others it is much slower.

Other Potential Reasons for Breakthrough Bleeding 
While normally spotting occurs due to hormone levels, there are other potential reasons for breakthrough bleeding.

  • Miscarriage
  • Hormonal fluctuation 
  • Missing, stopping or first starting oral contraceptives or estrogen pills
  • Decrease in thyroid levels
  • Stress
  • Dietary changes
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Displaced IUD
  • Injury to the inside of the vagina
  • Side effect of anticoagulant drugs 
  • OB/GYN procedures or biopsies 
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Malignant cancer 

Typically, breakthrough bleeding isn’t dangerous. If you are concerned, talk to your doctor about it.

Tips for Reducing Breakthrough Bleeding 

1. Don’t Stop Taking Your Pills Abruptly – Sometimes women think that if they stop taking their birth control, the breakthrough bleeding will stop. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. In fact, it will only make things worse.

2. Take Your Pills at the Same Time Each Day – If you are taking your pills irregularly or sometimes in the morning, sometimes at night, you are more likely to notice breakthrough bleeding. Make sure you take your pill around the same time each day. Many women find that setting a reminder or alarm on their phones can be a great way to remember that it’s time to take the pill.

3. Don’t Smoke – Smoking and birth control pills are a dangerous combination and in addition to a higher risk of stroke and blood clots, smokers also have an increased risk of breakthrough bleeding.

4.  Keep Your Pills in the Pharmacy Packaging – Pharmacy packaging is specifically designed to help you stay on track. Having each day labeled will show you if you have forgotten to take any pills. Don’t take them out ahead of schedule. If you do, you may be more apt to forget a dose, which of course increases the chance of irregular bleeding.

5. Check Before Taking Any Over-the-Counter Substances – Certain vitamins and supplements can lead to a loss of effectiveness in your birth control. This is because many, like St. John’s Wort for example, can actually alter the absorption of the hormones in your body. Always check to see if your over-the-counter medications can have a potential interaction with your birth control.

6. Control Stress – While it would be easy to just say “don’t be stressed,” the reality is that stress happens. The good thing though is that you can learn to control your stress in a healthy way. Stress can lead to spotting so try going for walks, journaling or any other healthy activity that can help reduce your stress levels.

7. Eat a Balanced Diet – Sudden weight gain or loss can change the way your birth control works and can also cause breakthrough bleeding. Try to maintain a healthy weight (or healthy weight loss) in order to keep your hormone levels steady.

Of course, if you are experiencing breakthrough bleeding and have no idea why this is occurring, speak to your pharmacist and doctor right away.