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Dear Sexpert,

I recently stopped taking my birth control pills because I am no longer sexually active. It’s been a month since I stopped taking them, and I still haven’t gotten my period. I admit I wasn’t the best pill-taker when I was sexually active. Should I be worried?

Thanks for your help,

—Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

It’s not uncommon for women who stop taking birth control to have delayed periods. But if you’re worried, you may want to take a pregnancy test to make sure you’re not pregnant. Urine tests for pregnancy are available free of charge for University students at McCosh Health Center. Clinicians at McCosh provide support and information for you when you receive the results, but you can also get an over-the-counter urine pregnancy test at pharmacies if you don’t want to wait for an appointment.

The pill works by inhibiting the body’s natural cyclical hormones to prevent ovulation and pregnancy. When you stop taking the pill, it can take some time for your body to return to its normal production of these hormones. Typically, your period should start again within three months after you stop taking the pill. But some women, especially those who took the pill to regulate their menstrual cycles, may not have a period for many months. If this loss of menstrual periods persists for more than three months after stopping the use of birth control pills, it’s a good idea to see a clinician at University Health Services.

When used consistently and correctly, birth control pills are up to 99.9 percent effective. However, according to Planned Parenthood, about nine out of 100 women will get pregnant each year if they don’t take the pill each day as directed. Thus, forgetting to take the pill does affect the pill’s efficacy in preventing pregnancy.

It’s important to find a birth control method that works for you and your schedule. Remembering to take a pill every day is something that doesn’t work for some people, and that’s OK. If you decide to go back on birth control, you may want to consider other methods that don’t require that you take them every day, such as a birth control ring (NuvaRing), which is left in place for three weeks, or an intrauterine device. If you do start using birth control pills again, remember to use a backup contraceptive for the remainder of the pill pack if you ever miss a pill. And since these birth control methods do not protect against sexually transmitted infections, condom use is recommended.

If you’d like more information about any of these topics, I recommend you make an appointment with Sexual Health and Wellness Services at McCosh Health Center, where any further questions may be answered. Information about appointments is kept strictly confidential and is not released to family, friends or the administration without the patient’s written authorization.

— The Sexpert

Interested in Sexual Health? The Sexpert is always looking for passionate members of the community to join the team of sexual health educators who, along with fact-checking from University health professionals, help write these columns. Email sexpert@dailyprincetonian.com for more information and, of course, with your questions about sexual health. Don’t be shy!

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