How to Delay Your Period Safely, According to Ob-gyns

Find out how to postpone your period, plus the methods you should skip.

Delaying Periods
Stocksy.

If you menstruate, then you've likely experienced a sinking feeling while glancing at your calendar at some point. It's easy to feel bummed out by the realization that the start of your next period coincides with a camping trip or wedding, when you don't want to have to time out your bathroom trips to change your tampon.

Assuming you don't want to plan every life event around your cycle, you might be curious about whether there are ways to put off your period instead. Here are the details on how to delay your period — and whether that's safe in the first place — straight from ob-gyns.

Can You Purposefully Delay Your Period?

Yep, it's totally fine to intentionally delay your period. "In a healthy reproductive-aged [person] with a natural monthly period (meaning, a monthly period that is not because of taking hormones), it is generally safe for [the person] to skip one or multiple periods," says Rachel Blair Danis, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and board-certified ob-gyn at RMA of New York. (Those who don't have a regular period should see a gynecologist or reproductive endocrinologist to find out the cause and make decisions about their menstrual frequency, she says.) "A period is really only meant to restart a menstrual cycle. In other words, a period indicates that a person is not pregnant and has the opportunity to try to conceive all over again."

Disclaimer: You may experience a harmless side effect if you skip many periods in a row. "The downside is that if [people] skip many periods, they can sometimes have breakthrough vaginal bleeding or spotting," says Emily Hu, M.D., ob-gyn and medical director at Evernow. "This is due to the ongoing hormonal exposure which can eventually thin the lining of the uterus to a point where there is a little bleeding." The bleeding isn't dangerous and doctors will typically recommend that patients take a break from hormonal birth control for a month or two before restarting, she says.

How to Delay Your Period

"Using hormonal contraception is the most effective way to skip a period(s)," says Leah Millheiser, M.D., ob-gyn and chief medical officer at Evernow.

If you're on a pill form of birth control, and want to skip a period, you'll skip over the row of placebo pills at the end of the pack and move right onto the next pack of birth control pills as if starting a new month of contraception, says Dr. Danis.

As for why that's effective, recall that the endometrium, a superficial layer of the lining of your uterine cavity, sheds with each period. "The only reason that a [person] has a period is to shed the uterine lining that thickens each month to prepare for a potential embryo implantation," says Dr. Millheiser. "When this doesn't happen, a period occurs."

If you're on a birth control pill, you'll experience a drop in hormones when you take the placebo pills, and your endometrium will sense the drop in the hormones and undergo shedding, says Dr. Danis.

Depending on which birth control pill you're on, the hormones in the birth control pill could either be progestin (a form of progesterone) or a combination of progestin and estrogen, says Dr. Danis. "Estrogen causes proliferation/growth of the endometrial lining, so the estrogen may prevent a person from experiencing a period," she says. "However, it’s really the continuous intake of hormones in the birth control pills that prevents the period, which is why a person on a progesterone-only pill regimen may also be able to skip a period."

A progestin-only pill (aka norethindrone) may be the better option for those who want to skip a period in the near future but aren't interested in long-term contraception. "Norethindrone is a good option for people who are hoping to delay their period over a shorter period of time, perhaps for an upcoming event, since it doesn’t require usage beyond the period of time that you’d like to not have your period, while being on combination hormonal birth control is a longer-term process that spans the duration of the menstrual cycle," says Laura Purdy, M.D., family medicine doctor and chief medical officer of Wisp. In other words, you can start taking the pills in the few days leading up to when you want to delay your period and discontinue use when you're ready for your period to return.

Other forms of birth control besides pills can affect your period frequency. "There are non-pill forms of birth control that have an added benefit of decreasing or at times even eliminating one’s menses," says Dr. Danis. "These include a levonorgestrel-containing intrauterine device (IUD), hormonal implants (in a person’s arm), or depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) intramuscular injections. The change in a person’s period may vary from one person to the next, so I would not assume that every person having an IUD or a depot injection will skip periods or see a decrease in their amount of bleeding per month." If you're wondering what's best for you, check in with a medical provider.

Can You Delay Your Period Naturally?

No matter what you might've heard through TikTok, there aren't any effective solutions for how to delay your period naturally. "While many people turn to Google hoping to find natural remedies to delay their periods, there are no scientifically proven, safe ways to delay your period before it starts that don’t involve hormones," says Dr. Purdy.

It's also best to skip trying out any tips you might've read about how to delay your period with ibuprofen once it's already ongoing, says Dr. Purdy. Ibuprofen on its own can reduce period flow without halting it altogether. It reduces your body's production of inflammatory elements, including hormone-like lipids called prostaglandins, and high levels of prostaglandins seem to translate to a heavier flow, as Shape previously reported. "Some people have also turned to ibuprofen and birth control in an attempt to stop their period once it has already started, which is unsafe, as using this method would involve taking far more than the recommended dosage," she says. Doing so could lead to unpleasant side effects, as Sydney Sweeney can attest.

So, if you're wondering how to delay your cycle, natural remedies aren't worth your time. But if you're interested in dodging the inconvenience or side effects of an upcoming period with the help of a medication, you've got options.

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