Women are discovering bleeding on birth control isn't actually your period.

I was today years old when I learned periods on the pill aren’t really periods at all, thanks to a viral TikTok post.

The post's since been deleted, but this little fact now lives in my head rent-free. How, at the age of 35, did I not know those periods weren’t actually periods? I obviously wasn’t paying attention during that GP appointment all those years ago when I was put on The Pill to regulate my periods, and then later as a form of contraception. 

Surely I would have remembered the part where the doctor said my periods weren’t actually periods on the pill?

Watch: If your period was a person. Story continues below.

Video via Mamamia

Many women out there are in the same boat, which is why we’ve turned to Nat Kringoudis, a qualified health practitioner and women's health expert, to tell us what the heck this is all about.

What happens during a natural menstrual cycle?

For women who menstruate, during a normal cycle, "you have various hormones that influence various times of your cycle", Kringoudis told Mamamia. "In that first phase, your estrogen is building, your lining is building and you’re building up to the hero of your cycle, which is ovulation. In a perfect world, this happens in the middle of your cycle.


“Once your oestrogen levels get to a certain amount and your body is happy, that will help to trigger ovulation. Then, during the other part of the cycle – as a result of ovulation – we produce progesterone. Once you get to the end of the cycle you’ll have a period, and then the cycle repeats.”

So to p[ut it simply, when an egg is released and not fertilised, the uterine lining sheds and that is the menses (technical term) aka the bleed – aka your period.

So what happens during a cycle when The Pill is taken?

Well... none of that, explained Kringoudis, because when you take birth control, an egg is not released. 

“When you’re on birth control, none of the above happens,” Kringoudis explained. 

So, why the bleed week then?

The week that you take the sugar pills causes what's known as a withdrawal bleed, not a true period, and the 'blood' is not the same as the blood during your period.

The withdrawal bleed is still a shedding of the uterine lining, but it's caused by a drop in hormone levels during the week you take your sugar pills, and is usually lighter and slightly different to a natural period.

As the sugar pills have no active ingredients, hormone levels drop during the week you take them, which causes the resulting withdrawal bleed. They're just included in your pack to help you stay in the habit of taking one pill every day!


(Speaking of, did you know sugar pills were only created because women were freaking out, thinking they might be pregnant when they didn't have a period? The withdrawal bleed gives women the peace of mind that they’re not pregnant. Mind blown.)

Listen to Fill My Cup. Allira talks about the emotional week that precedes a period. Post continues below.

Why do some women fall pregnant when on the pill?

Assuming people are following the strict usage guidelines, “the number of pregnancies that occur while women are on birth control is quite high", said Kringoudis. 

"I suspect it’s because the actual dosage is incorrect. And not all women are the same.”

Other external factors like antibiotics and medications can also make The Pill null and void, so it's a good idea to flag with your doctor if you're taking any new medication or supplements. 

All this begs the question: how the heck did we not know this?! 

“I don’t think women have the information," said Kringoudis. "And that’s the bigger conversation. It’s about having the facts and the information to make good choices."

Feature Image: Getty

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