Why do some birth controls have a placebos?

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So you can technically get pregnant at any time of the month, so why throw in a couple placebo pills? What do they do exactly, and can you get pregnant during that week of taking them?

In: Biology

I asked my doctor this a few months ago! You can, in my country at least, opt to get ones without placebos, but most have them. The idea is that birth control via tablet is only this extremely safe and effective method of adhered to VERY strictly. If you take them an hour or two out, etc, or skip days accidentally, the chance of failure increases. The placebos are so that people can maintain the habit of taking a tablet at the same time. Apparently, his words, it improves the % of people taking them properly and reduces the number of failures. ☺️

The human reproduction cycle needs a period where the female body can get rid of excess uterine lining and wasted eggs. Naturally, this is what we call a period.

If women took full-hormone birth control non-stop, they wouldn’t have a period as often, which can lead to problems, like a much heavier flow than normal when it happens.

So, standard birth control is ~3 weeks of hormone pills and ~1 week of placebo pills to allow the hormone levels to drop and the period to occur. Doing this, the women remember to take their pills every day (not saying there is any stupidity involved, but habits work for a reason), and the body is able to function as normal.

some women take birth control just to ensure their periods are regulated.

Because that week of placebo is when the uterus sheds its lining, it’s less likely for a woman to get pregnant, compared to other days of the month, but a lot of guys will wait to have sex during that time anyway, because of the blood.

The placebo pills are included in 28-day packs on BC pills – Pills in a pack have different hormone doses by week, since a woman’s hormone levels change over the course of the month. The placebo pills are to be taken during the week that the woman is scheduled to have her period.

The idea that you can get pregnant at any time of the month is both true but not 100% accurate; a woman can have sex while on her period and it’s possible for the sperm to survive internally until she ovulates – it’s rare, but possible. But when she’s on the pill, the non-placebo pills should be altering her hormone levels enough so that the egg won’t implant, regardless of whether or not sperm survives on placebo week. It should also be regulating her enough so that she’s ovulating regularly, and not early, which is how the pregnant-on-period thing usually happens.

The point of the placebo pills, as explained to me by my doctor when I first started on the pill, is just to reinforce habit – women need to take the pill at the same time every day for maximum effectiveness, so the placebo pills are included so that the woman can still take something as usual for that week where the extra hormones are not needed. BC packs also come in 21 day options which exclude the placebo pills, and then women are meant to just not take anything for the week of menstruation.

I am seeing a TON of misconceptions here. Skipping a period DOES NOT have any adverse health effects. This is a very common myth. The body does not need a period for any reason other than to prepare itself for pregnancy. If one doesn’t desire to become pregnant, one doesn’t need a period. The pill comes with placebo days for people who want to continue having their period, but there is really no other reason for it. It’s rather common for people to take a non-placebo pill every day in order to stop having a period. For some people, this is actually the only reason they get the pill.

[Medical News Today](https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322753#is-it-safe-to-skip-or-delay-a-period)

[Mayo Clinic](https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/birth-control/in-depth/womens-health/art-20044044)

[Planned Prenthood](https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/teens/ask-experts/are-there-any-health-risks-with-using-the-ring-continuously-to-skip-my-period)

[Health.com](https://www.health.com/condition/menstruation/is-it-just-me-withdrawal-bleed)

The placebo pills are just there so you can keep up a regular habit. If you do something every day, you won’t forget to do it. If you do it only every few days, you probably will.

Sorry, just to be a stickler they aren’t placebos. Placebos are treatments presented as legitimate which do not contain any active ingredient (or process in the case of physical placebos) and whose sole effect relies on belief in its efficacy.

The extra pills in oral contraceptives are sold with express consumer knowledge that they contain no active ingredient. The “sugar pills“ simply allow for habit forming whilst having a break in hormone delivery in order to have a period if the woman so desires. It’s easier to remember to take a pill every day than to remember to take one a day for 3 weeks and have one week off.