OBG(why)N: Can you Delay Your Cycle or Stop Your Period?
So, you take a year to plan your wedding, paying attention to every small detail. And than it happens. About 3 weeks before the big day, you realize that you are going to have your period. And even worse than that, it’s going to last the first few days of your honeymoon. Not very romantic or convenient. So you call your gyno and say “My friend told me you can take a pill to delay your cycle or stop your period. Is that true?”
When patients ask me this, my first question in response is “Are you on a birth control pill?” If the answer is yes, than we can probably delay your cycle. If your answer is no, things may not be so simple.
Lets take a look:
Most pills are formulated with 21 active pills and 7 placebo pills. When you’re on the pill, the “period” you get is not a real period but rather a withdrawal bleed in response to taking away estrogen and progesterone for the 7 day stretch of placebo. This period is not real and is also not necessary, although many younger women feel comforted by seeing a monthly flow. It assures them that they are not pregnant and makes them “feel normal”.
In order to manipulate your cycle, you need to be on a monophonic pill, which means that all of your active pills are the same dose or color. If you want to move your cycle, the first thing to do is figure out how many days you need to move cycle. I personally think it is easier to move your cycle later, than have it come earlier.
When you get to the placebo pills of the pack you are currently on, you skip them and start on the active pills of the next pack.
You can than decide to take 1,2 or 3 rows of active pills from the new pack and continue with the placebo pills when you get to them. In this way, you have now delayed your period by 1,2 or 3 weeks.
If you opt for accelerating your cycle, than you simply stop the active pills 1 or 2 weeks into the pack and go straight to the placebo pills. After 2 or 3 days, your body will sense the withdrawal of hormones and your cycle will start.
Sounds easy, right? Well…
The biggest problem with moving your period is that sometimes your body is just not ready to do this and so you may have spotting and bloating which will continue until you get to the placebo pills and give yourself a period. While spotting and bloating may not be terrible, I am sure it is not what you were hoping for. The best thing to do, if you have the luxury of time, is to move your period a few months before your big day so that any irregularities will have worked themselves out. Or, if you need to move your period by more than a week or 10 days, move it a few days per cycle. In this way, you can make the change gradually and avoid the unwanted side effects.
What do you do if you are not on anything? This becomes a more difficult scenario. If you are not on anything and you don’t have enough time to start a pill, you may be out of luck. Sometimes, we try to use a progesterone only pill to delay the cycle. The problem with this method is that it also causes irregular bleeding and bloating. Sometimes, if you already have a short cycle, it may just be easier to get your period.
So, YES, it is entirely possible to accelerate or delay your cycle IF you are already on a monophasic pill or you have the luxury of time. Be sure to discuss these issues with your doctor to make sure you understand how to do it and more importantly, how to stay protected against unwanted pregnancy and unwanted side effects. If done correctly, you can enjoy your big day worry free!