Periods rarely choose a convenient time to arrive — or maybe it’s that there is no convenient time for a period, especially if yours come with days of cramps, mood swings, nausea, and general discomfort. However, if you’re hoping to skip or delay your period for vacation or another special event, there’s good news: it is possible to postpone your period safely. “From a medical perspective, periods can be safely delayed or skipped,” confirms Jerome Chelliah, MD, MPH, a board-certified ob-gyn and vice president of clinical operations at HerMD.
Delaying your period isn’t something you can make happen with home remedies, though, no matter how many hacks you might stumble across online. Methods like consuming lentils, lemon juice, or gelatin to delay your period “have not been scientifically studied or vetted,” Dr. Chelliah stresses. In other words, if it sounds too good or simple to be true, it probably is.
What you can do is talk to your doctor about using birth control — specifically, hormonal birth control — to safely delay or skip your period. POPSUGAR spoke to the experts to find out how you can skip your period, the pros and cons of doing so, and what types of birth control to look into if you’re interested in delaying your period.
How to Delay Your Period With Hormonal Birth Control
You have a few options when it comes to delaying your period with hormonal birth control, says Kim Langdon, MD, an ob-gyn with Medzino.
- Continuous-use or extended-cycle birth-control pills: Some birth-control pills are designed to allow you to either skip your period every few months or make it so you don’t have a period at all. For example, combination pills (birth-control pills that contain both estrogen and progestin hormones) like Seasonale, Jolessa, and Quasense have 12 weeks of active (hormone-containing) pills followed by one week of inactive pills, when you’ll likely have a period, effectively causing you to have just one period every three months. Another option, Amethyst, contains a year’s worth of active pills with no placebo pills, designed so that you won’t have a period for a year.
- Skipping your placebo week: If you’re on birth control pills that do include a week of placebo pills (during which you usually get your period), you can skip your period by simply skipping the placebo week of the medication and continuing to take active pills instead, Dr. Chelliah says.
- Vaginal ring: When you use a vaginal ring such as the NuvaRing, you have the option of removing it for a week, which will cause you to get a period, or keeping it in place, which will prevent you from getting your period. If you keep the ring in continuously, note that you should still swap in a new ring every three to five weeks, per Planned Parenthood.
- Hormonal IUD: Many people who use hormonal IUDs find that, over time, their periods are reduced in frequency and length. Some people even stop getting their period altogether. However, it’s worth noting that this takes time to happen; you may still experience bleeding for the first few months after getting a hormonal IUD put in.
- DMPA injection: Birth-control shots (Depo-Provera) are given every 90 days and often reduce or stop periods altogether, especially when used over a long period of time. According to Planned Parenthood, half of the people who get the DPMA shot stop getting their periods, although it may take up to a year to experience that effect.
If you’re not already on hormonal birth control and you want to delay your period, your doctor may be able to help. For example, in some cases, you can delay your period by a few days by taking progestin-only pills (aka minipills), Dr. Chelliah says.
Is It Safe to Delay Your Period?
It is safe to delay your period, both Dr. Chelliah and Dr. Langdon agree, but you may experience a few side effects from doing so. For some methods (such as extended-cycle birth-control pills), “it may take a couple of months for it to work,” Dr. Langdon says. You may also experience breakthrough bleeding, or bleeding outside of your normal menstrual cycle. This is especially true if you delay your period for longer than one month, Dr. Chelliah says. When using birth control to delay their period, “most patients will eventually experience breakthrough bleeding approximately two to three months after not having a period,” he explains.
That said, there are some clear advantages to delaying your period, whether they’re medical (like wanting to avoid period pain and discomfort) or personal (like planning around a big event or your travel schedule). Whatever the reason you’re considering skipping your period, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor so you can come up with a plan together. And if you start to notice your periods are delayed or skipped without explanation, Dr. Chelliah adds, it’s time to talk to your doctor so you can figure out and address the cause.