Some people may wish to delay their period to have fewer periods or to avoid bleeding at inconvenient times, such as during an important event or vacation.
Doctors call this practice menstrual manipulation or menstrual suppression. People can choose among several different types of hormonal drugs to delay their period. Some natural products may also affect menstruation.
In this article, we look at how people can delay a period using medical and natural remedies.
Doctors can prescribe hormonal contraceptives to delay a person’s period. People can choose from several different hormonal contraceptives. These include:
To delay a period, people can use one of the above hormonal contraceptives.
Long acting hormonal contraceptives come with low risks and potential health benefits. Taking oral hormonal contraceptives reduces the risk of:
Another benefit of delaying periods is to reduce blood loss in people with bleeding disorders, such as von Willebrand disease.
People with severe intellectual disabilities may benefit from hormonal contraceptives to delay their periods. Some individuals may have behavioral issues or physical disabilities that affect their hygiene practices during menstruation.
Each hormonal contraceptive method works differently to either reduce or prevent a period. Some hormonal contraceptive methods are more effective in delaying a period than others.
Oral contraceptive pills
Some people may be able to extend the time between their periods by skipping the hormone-free week in their pill schedule.
For example, people taking a 28 day pack of hormonal contraceptives can take the first 21 days of hormone pills. They can then start a new pack right away without taking the placebo pills. People can discuss this option with their doctor first to check that it is safe.
Researchers advise taking hormonal pills for no more than 84 days before taking a 7 day break to have a period.
This practice allows the person to bleed four times a year and decreases the risk of hypertrophic endometrium, which is an enlarged uterus.
In some cases, for example, if a person has endometriosis, doctors may prescribe continuous contraceptive pills without any hormone-free time.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved only three long-term oral contraceptives. These include:
- Seasonale: 84 active hormone pills and seven placebo pills
- Seasonique: similar to Seasonale, but instead of placebo pills, it contains seven low dose estrogen pills
- Lybrel: entire year’s worth of contraceptive pills without placebo or pill-free week
Intrauterine device (IUD)
Medicated IUDs, such as Mirena, release progestin from a device that a healthcare professional has inserted into the uterus. A Mirena IUD can remain in the uterus for up to 5 years.
About half of people who have a Mirena IUD will no longer get their period within 6 months of using it.
People who cannot tolerate hormones or wish to avoid progestin can choose a copper IUD. However, copper devices may cause more breakthrough bleeding — bleeding or spotting in between periods — than hormone-releasing IUDs.
People who use the contraceptive patch, which is available under the brand name Ortho Evra, place a new patch on their skin once a week for 3 weeks. The fourth week is typically hormone-free. People who want to extend their cycle can apply a new patch in the fourth week and avoid the hormone-free week.
A study showed that long-term use of the patch only leads to 12% of women stopping their period. Breakthrough bleeding is common in those who use the patch continuously.
People typically place a vaginal ring in the vagina for 3 weeks and then remove it for 1 week.
A vaginal ring works similarly to the contraceptive patch, as it releases hormones daily. People who want to delay their period can skip the hormone-free week and insert a new ring.
One trial compared the effectiveness of regular scheduling of the vaginal ring to extended scheduling. Avoiding the hormone-free week caused fewer days of bleeding, but more breakthrough bleeding.
Implanon is a progestin-releasing implant that a doctor will insert underneath the skin in the upper arm. The implant can release hormones for up to 3 years. Among the different hormonal contraceptives, Implanon is less successful at delaying periods.
Norethindrone is a form of progesterone that is effective in delaying a period. One study compared the effectiveness of norethindrone with that of other oral combined contraceptives in preventing bleeding.
The researchers found that norethindrone may be more effective than oral combined contraceptives in delaying a period when people are in the middle of their menstrual cycle. It also prevents breakthrough bleeding.
People can only take norethindrone temporarily and not as an oral contraceptive. If a person needs further hormonal contraception, doctors will prescribe oral combined contraceptives instead.
Some experts believe that certain natural substances, such as apple cider vinegar, may affect a person’s period. However, limited research is available on the effects of apple cider vinegar on menstruation.
One 2013 study looked at the effects of apple cider vinegar on ovulation in seven females. These participants were searching for a treatment for a reproductive disease called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
People with PCOS can experience anovulation, which means that they do not ovulate. Ovulation and menstruation are two different processes in the cycle. Most people who want to delay their period may only want to avoid the inconvenience of menstruation.
In this study, the researchers found that apple cider vinegar restored ovulation in four out of seven females with PCOS.
Limited evidence is available to support the use of natural remedies, such as shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) or yarrow (Achillea millefolium), to delay a period.
Other nonmedicinal factors can also affect a period. Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea is a disorder that affects hormones called gonadotropins, which affect periods. People with functional hypothalamic amenorrhea do not get a period.
Some female athletes experience functional hypothalamic amenorrhea and other menstrual disorders. Approximately 50% of females who regularly exercise experience minor changes in their cycle, and 30% lose their period.
Other factors that can cause functional hypothalamic amenorrhea are stress and weight loss.
A risk of using a hormonal contraceptive method too soon after starting menstruation is the closing of the epiphyses of the bones, which can result in stunted growth. People who start taking hormonal contraceptives shortly after their first period may stop growing in height.
Depending on the type of hormonal contraceptive, some people may experience breakthrough bleeding. Breakthrough bleeding occurs more often when people first start using a hormonal contraceptive. Usually, this side effect decreases over time.
People who choose to use hormonal injections need to see a healthcare professional every 3 months for their doses. Missing an appointment can put a woman at risk of pregnancy if she is also using it as a contraceptive.
People with obesity or appetite control difficulties who receive medroxyprogesterone injections may gain 10–20 kilograms of weight. However, people with a moderate body weight tend not to gain the extra weight.
Doctors typically do not recommend using the contraceptive patch continuously because it may lead to higher levels of estrogen in the blood.
Menstruation occurs roughly every 28 days, but some people can have longer or shorter cycles. Menstrual cycles can range from 21–45 days. Most periods last between 3 and 7 days.
Some reasons why a person may choose to delay a period include:
- avoiding bleeding during an important event, such as a wedding, vacation, or sports competition
- preventing painful periods or reducing conditions, such as endometriosis or migraine, that worsen with hormonal changes
- fewer period-related symptoms
- higher productivity due to fewer days absent from school or work
- overall greater satisfaction
Researchers estimate that about 2.5 million women between 18 and 50 years of age in the United States experience:
- painful periods
- excessive menstruation
- irregular periods
- premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
People may choose to delay their periods to avoid these conditions.
One side effect of delaying a period can be breakthrough bleeding.
Many medical treatments are effective in delaying a period, but to date, researchers have found limited evidence to suggest that it is possible to achieve this using natural remedies.
If a person wishes to delay their period, they can choose from a variety of hormonal contraceptives. Doctors can help people choose by discussing the benefits and risks of long-term treatment and the goals of the individual.