If you menstruate, then there is a high possibility that you have dreaded an oncoming cycle coinciding with an important assignment, a trip to the beach, an athletic competition, or an important social event, like your wedding. Modern menstrual hygiene devices, such as the beneficial menstrual cup, can help you deal with bleeding during vigorous activities or even swimming, but a lot of menstruating people experience other symptoms like painful cramps, bloating, muscle aches, and low energy, none of which are conducive to having fun on a vacation or an event, concentrating on a final exam, or working on an important project, and look for ways to temporarily pause or delay their period. Dr Vandana Sinha, gynaecologist at Apollo Hospitals, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, verifies the methods you can safely use to do so.
There are two ways that this can be done: by starting a birth control pill a few months in advance to adjust the timing of your period around the time of when you need to delay it, or by taking two active packets of the 21-day combination pill back to back, to avoid the period or “withdrawal bleeding”.
Start taking a birth control pill in advance to coordinate your period to arrive early. This is a method that Dr Sinha highly recommends for avoiding your period coinciding with an important event. “If your reason is something like a vacation or a wedding, chances are that you would start preparing for it months in advance,” she says. “It is best to consult with your doctor and start on a pill that would help you regulate the time of your cycle so that it arrives a few days early, instead of having to delay it.”
How Does It Work?
A period takes place when the uterus (or womb) sheds its lining, and this process is controlled by the hormones progesterone and estrogen, made by the ovary. The standard combination pill comes in a 21-day pack of active pills that contain synthetic estrogen and progestin, and in the 7-day interval between one pack and the next, you experience your period in the form of “withdrawal bleeding.” It can thus allow you to control the timing of your period in the upcoming months.
What to Keep in Mind: You have to start preparing months in advance in order to successfully coordinate this timing, as your body might take a while to get used to the pill. Also, since the pills work by releasing hormones into your body, it is very important to follow the dosing schedule. Missing even one dose can render the pill ineffective.
Take two packets of the combination birth pill back to back. If you are on the estrogen-progestin combination pill, you can skip the 7-day interval between your two 21-day packs and start a new pack immediately after you finish one. This will successfully delay your period for another 21 days.
How Does it Work?
The “withdrawal bleeding” that mimics your period while you are on the pill occurs when you stop taking the active pill, which causes a drop in the levels of progesterone in your body. While this bleeding is similar to your menstrual cycle, the pill actually stops the thickening of the lining of the womb, and this means it does not need to be expelled every month. The bleeding can thus be delayed by taking the next dose of active pills. This will not affect the contraceptive benefits of the pill.
What to Keep in Mind: You should consult your ob-gyn before you take two packets of pills. Dr Sinha strongly advises against taking the active combination pills a third time consecutively, or indefinitely.
Is This a Safe Method?
If you do not wish to get pregnant, then contraceptive pills are the safest way for you to regulate your period. However, there are possible associated side effects such as mood swings, hormonal acne, weight gain or breakthrough bleeding.
Hormone controlling pills such as norethisterone.
These pills can be taken in an emergency situation, three days before your period is supposed to start, if you do not take the combined contraceptive pill. This works on a short-term basis to delay your period for upto 17 days.
How Does It Work?
The uterine lining is shed when progesterone levels in your body drop towards the end of your menstrual cycle. The hormone controlling pill contains a synthetic form of progesterone, which artificially keeps your progesterone levels high. This stops the lining of the womb from breaking down for the duration that you take the pill, thus causing you to not have a period. Your period will naturally arrive 2-3 days after you stop taking the pill.
What to Keep In Mind: “Delaying your period using this method might not get rid of your period symptoms,” says Dr Sinha. “You might experience bloating, cramps, abdominal pain and a low mood for the whole duration. You can also have heavy bleeding when you have your period after getting off this pill.” She advises against taking this medicine directly from a pharmacy, without consulting a doctor first because of certain health risks, mentioned below. It is also not contraception.
Is This a Safe Method?
This pill is safe for most people to take on an occasional, short-term basis; however, this is not recommended to be used beyond the dosage of 17 days, as delaying your period indefinitely through this method is extremely unsafe. “There are also some people for whom this pill might not be safe,” says the doctor “such as those who are susceptible to blood clots, or have high blood pressure or diabetes.” This is why it is necessary for you to consult your doctor to see if this is safe for you.