You know the scene: You're planning a big event, like a wedding or long-awaited vacation, and you realize it's going to fall during that time of the month. And thus, a thought goes through your mind as a menstruating person: Wouldn't it be great to delay my period—just for a few days?
While it might sound more like fantasy than reality, there actually are a few ways to postpone your period a bit—but is that even a safe thing to do? Luckily, we've got some experts in reproductive medicine to weigh in. Here's what you need to know, according to ob-gyns, about delaying your period and how to do it safely.
How-To-Delay-Your-Period-GettyImages-962580200-1088373654-168586458 : the combination pill (known commonly as just "the pill").
"A birth control pill has 21 days of hormones, usually ethinyl estradiol and progestin, and seven days of a placebo pill that prompts you to have an artificial period," Alyse Kelly-Jones, MD, an ob-gyn in Charlotte, North Carolina, tells Health. "To delay your period, you would skip the placebo and immediately start a new pack of pills."
Doing this for just one cycle can delay your period by as much as another three weeks, says Dr. Kelly-Jones. The only caveat is that you need to plan accordingly and with plenty of notice if you're not already on hormonal birth control to begin with. "If you come to me two weeks out from your wedding or vacation and aren't already on birth control, I probably won't be able to help you," she says. "At best, you might be able to delay it in time, but at worst, you might cause all kinds of irregular bleeding, which would be even less appealing."
That's because, with your birth control pills already in place, your body is (more or less) like a well-oiled machine, while starting birth control from scratch can sometimes be a lengthy process to find one that works with your body to your liking.
Another key aspect of using birth control pills to delay your period: Make sure you're taking the pill consistently—at the same time every day—in order to prevent spotting, breakthrough bleeding, or even pregnancy, Jodie Horton, MD, an ob-gyn in Oakton, Virginia, and chief wellness advisor for Love Wellness, tells Health. Of course, that's essential for whenever you're taking the active pills from your pack.
While some people may be concerned about a buildup of blood in the uterus that hasn't been shed when skipping periods, Dr. Horton says that's not really an issue here. "Your period is mainly controlled by the hormones estrogen and progesterone," she says. "Birth control with estrogen and progesterone prevents the lining of the uterus from getting thick; [instead], it remains thin and doesn't need to be shed."
And though the pill is the best birth control method to be on if you want to skip or delay your period, the kind of pill matters here too: Monophasic birth control pills—which contain equal amounts of estrogen and progesterone—are the best option here, while multiphasic or triphasic pills are typically associated with more spotting, since they contain varying amounts of estrogen and progesterone depending on the week.
There's also a specific type of FDA-approved medication, called "extended-cycle pills," which allow you to take up to seven weeks' worth of combination pills before taking a week of placebo pills in order to have some bleeding. "This can be ideal for [those] who have endometriosis, or painful and heavy periods that interrupt their quality of life," says Dr. Kelly-Jones. "While there's no problem with that, the longer you do it, the more likely you are to have breakthrough bleeding or spotting, and that's when we usually counsel [patients] to take a break, take the placebo pills, and start all over again."
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Can other hormonal methods delay your period?
So, the pill is the most effective way to safely delay your period, according to experts. But there are some other methods that may work, as well.
One of those methods, according to Dr. Kelly-Jones, is the vaginal ring (aka NuvaRing or Annovera). This hormonal contraception method is FDA-approved for use through the same 21 days on, seven days off cycle as the pill. But Annovera has enough hormones to be left in for a full year without changing it, says Dr. Kelly-Jones. The NuvaRing, meanwhile, only has 28 days' worth of hormones before it has to be replaced with a new one.
Keep in mind, though, this is not the FDA-approved use for these methods. "While it's safe to do this, neither ring is FDA-approved for this method," says Dr. Kelly-Jones.
Along the same lines, the birth control patch could technically be used in this way, as well. "Similarly, you can also use the birth control patch continuously by using a new patch every week, and on week four, place a new patch on your body to skip your period," says Dr. Horton. However, it's a great idea to keep your doctor in the loop if you plan to try any of these methods—not only to get their go-ahead, but to make them away of any changes happening in your body.
While hormonal contraception is largely the way to go if you want a method of birth control that can delay your period at times, there are a few options to avoid. Progestin intrauterine devices (IUDs), for example, can stop your period—but it can be a more complicated process and less reliable than using birth control pills, says Dr. Kelly-Jones. The arm implant (aka Nexplanon), is also not recommended for delaying your period, as it can cause irregular bleeding that may not improve with time, she adds.
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Are there any natural methods that work to delay your period?
You may have heard somewhere on the internet that there are a few natural or homemade methods that can help you delay your period—but our experts agree that this is not the way to go.
"If you search online, you'll likely read about natural ways to delay your period, like consuming gram lentils, gelatin, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, or even green bean water a few days to a week before your period," says Dr. Horton. "However, none of these methods are scientifically proven to work because drinking or eating special foods does not alter the hormones involved in regulating your period. They can, however, affect your teeth, gums, mouth, throat, and gastrointestinal tract if taken in excessive amounts."
Other suspected remedies like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium (typically known as Aleve) can help to relieve cramps and reduce your flow if you've already started your period, but they won't prevent it altogether.
Ultimately, if you're looking to temporarily pause your period, you are able to do so in a safe and effective way. But, as always, if you have any concerns or are unsure about which method to go for, talk to your doctor to determine the best path for your individual situation.
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