Period Pills are medications you can take if your period is late and you suspect that you are pregnant when you don’t want to be. We also call these “missed” or “late” period pills.
What do Period Pills do?
Period pills bring on your period when it is late, even by just a few days. If you are pregnant, these pills will end your very early pregnancy. But you do not have to take a pregnancy test or confirm you are pregnant before using period pills. They are safe; they have been used around the world for decades; and they are more than 90% effective at ensuring non-pregnancy as early as three or four days after your period is late.
Yes! Period Pills are real.
Yes! Period Pills are real. In the United States we have used these pills for twenty years to provide safe, early medication abortion. But in other countries around the world, these pills are also used when periods are late and folks want to get their period and not to be pregnant. Sometimes this is referred to as menstrual regulation, or pushing a period, or bringing down a period. For example, in Bangladesh, the government promotes menstrual regulation, and women may take period pills up to ten weeks after missing their periods, to ensure they are not pregnant.
Are period pills safe?Yes, missed period pills (misoprostol with mifepristone or misoprostol alone) have been used by millions of women worldwide for early abortion, menstrual regulation and other gynecological indications. Both medications are also widely used by non-pregnant people for other medical indications, such as stomach ulcers and uterine fibroids. While there are side effects from taking these medicines (including cramping and bleeding that indicate they are working), these side effects are usually mild, and serious side effects are rare.
How effective are period pills?Currently, there are two main medication regimens that healthcare providers use to bring down a late period or induce a very, very early abortion. The first, misoprostol alone, is around 92% effective at bringing on bleeding and ending a potential early pregnancy when used as directed. When misoprostol is combined with another medicine, mifepristone, the pills to bring on a period are even more effective. Used in combination, these medicines are 95-98% effective in bringing on bleeding and cramping and ending a potential pregnancy. Importantly, if the pills do not work and a person is pregnant after taking the medications, there may be a risk for the developing embryo. People should only take missed period pills if they are sure they do not want to be pregnant, and would have an abortion if the period pills did not work.
How do period pills work?If someone is pregnant, taking these medications will end their pregnancy. This can be referred to as an abortion. But since pregnancy is not verified before taking the pills, a person will never know if they were or weren’t starting a pregnancy when they took the pills. Late period pills will bring down a person’s menses even if they aren’t pregnant, and can provide reassurance and peace of mind if someone doesn’t want to be pregnant. A person does not need to take a pregnancy test or confirm a pregnancy to use missed period pills.
What happens if I take the pills when I’m not pregnant?Period pills will cause cramping and bleeding, and bring down your late period even if you are not pregnant. They are safe to use whether or not you are in the beginning stages of a pregnancy.
Do people really need this option? Why not just wait a week or two and have an abortion?It can be stressful and scary to realize that you or your sexual partner have a late period when you don’t want to be pregnant. In such situations, being forced to wait one to two weeks before getting help for a possible unwanted pregnancy may be difficult. Using medicines to bring down a person’s period can alleviate much of this stress and anxiety by enabling people to end a possible unwanted pregnancy right away. In a recent study that assessed interest in missed period pills among people with late periods, many participants expressed interest due to anticipated psychological or emotional benefits. Here are some of the reasons people gave, in their own words: “It would be easier on my emotional well-being to not know I was actually pregnant but to alleviate the issue which is my missed period.” “Finding out if your [sic] pregnant is a scary, unpleasant thing if you are of my opinion of pregnancy and kids in general, and finding that out, not to mention having to go through an abortion can sometimes feel ‘wrong’ for lack of a better word. Right after my abortion I did feel depressed (not regretful though), and I think that without having that shock of finding out your [sic] pregnant, then going through the waiting period for abortion…I feel like there would be more reason for women to come to a place where they can just spur their period on. It would be a psychological cushion, in a sense, for those women who may be unsure of their own feelings on abortion, pregnancy and sexual health in general.” “I wouldn’t feel I am a bad person” “Because I feel most young girls are not ready to be mothers like myself. But family and friends frown on the fact of abortion and therefore they have to keep it most of the time...”
Shouldn’t pregnant people be comfortable with abortion? Shouldn’t people know if they are pregnant before they take pills that can end a pregnancy?Recent research shows what we know anecdotally: Some people want clarity as to whether or not they are in the very beginning stages of pregnancy, and some of them are comfortable with the idea of an abortion either in a clinic or with pills at home. Other people may prefer not to know if they are pregnant before intervening. And some people may simply want to avoid waiting longer to schedule an abortion. Advocates for period pills believe healthcare providers should meet people where they are, and that offering everyone more options for fertility control is a good thing. People who want abortions should be able to access safe, legal, affordable abortion options. People who want to take pills when their periods are late without knowing their pregnancy status should also have the option to do so.
Could widespread use of late period pills result in unnecessary treatment of people who aren’t pregnant and/or those who might have a very early pregnancy loss, also known as a chemical pregnancy, without intervention?"In many instances, people choose to take medicines that they may or may not need in order to prevent an unwanted condition. For instance, people may take emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy, even if doing so is actually “unnecessary” because they were not at risk for pregnancy or would not have gotten pregnant that cycle. People also take anti-malarial medicines when they believe they may be exposed to malaria, even if they end up not being bitten by a malarial mosquito. Advocates for taking pills to bring down a period believe they are similar: if people want their periods to return, and do not want to be pregnant, then regardless of their pregnancy status, taking these medicines provides benefit. In addition, people sometimes elect to take medicines mainly for the psychological benefits they provide. Missed period pills can help to reduce the stress and anxiety of a possible unwanted pregnancy, allowing people to take care of a missed period as soon as it occurs.
Bringing on Periods is Traditional
Historically , Americans used early interventions to bring on periods. These interventions were acceptable, normal ways for women to ensure that they were not pregnant before any pregnancy was confirmed. In colonial America, for instance, pregnancies were confirmed when a woman could feel her fetus moving inside her (around 14-16 weeks after her last menstrual period), at the “quickening”. Women could try to bring down their periods before the quickening if they didn’t want to have a child at that time.
Possible Pregnancies Come With Uncertainty
Today we can find out very quickly if a pregnancy may be starting in our bodies by using home pregnancy tests. But as many of us who have tried to get pregnant have discovered, positive pregnancy tests regularly result in chemical pregnancies or early miscarriages -- we get our periods late, and a possible pregnancy doesn’t stick. Late period pills let us choose to get our periods or have chemical pregnancies when we don’t want a pregnancy to become established. Instead of waiting and worrying, we can take pills and bring on our periods.
This traditional way of controlling fertility may seem new and surprising, but it’s actually a very old way of embracing uncertainty when we think we might be pregnant and don’t want to be.