You can count on your menstrual cycle to prepare your body for pregnancy. But when it comes to the ETA of your period, the reliability of your menstrual cycle is somewhat MIA. Despite the average timespan of a menstrual cycle lasting 28-days, periods ebb and flow to their own beat. They don’t account for your upcoming tropical holiday. And they certainly don’t RSVP for your important events.

And we get that it’s not always convenient to experience irregular cycles, suffer through premenstrual syndrome, or plan a fashionable outfit based around the size of your sanitary pads. So, if the question of ‘how to delay your period?’ is on constant rotation in your mind, we’re here to clear some of that headspace. 

But first, a refresher on how your period works

The menstrual cycle involves a complex three-way relationship between your brain, menstrual hormones, and ovaries. In preparation for a potential pregnancy, this relationship triggers the release of an egg from an ovary, and the development of an internal lining of the uterus (the endometrium).

When an egg isn’t fertilised, there is no chance of pregnancy, so the uterus sheds its lining in what’s known as menstrual bleeding. Once the entire lining has shed, normally between four and six days, the four phases of a menstrual cycle begin again.

The average duration of a menstrual cycle is 28 days, with most cycle lengths ranging from 25 to 30 days.

Can you delay your period?

If you want to delay your period to a later date, your best option is to use common birth control methods: the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP) or progestin-only pill (POP).

How oral birth control works?

The combined pill prevents pregnancy by stopping a woman’s ovaries from releasing an egg and thickening the mucus at the entrance of the womb to stop sperm from entering.

The progestin-only pill works only by thickening the mucus to prevent sperm from swimming through the vagina.

Both birth control pills run on a 28-day cycle, including 21 active pills and seven placebo pills. The day you take your first placebo pill should align with the first day of your period, which is actually considered a withdrawal bleed due to the reduction in hormones. 

How to delay your period using the pill?

If you want to know how to stop your period and push it back for few days, the process is relatively simple using hormonal contraception.

First, start by taking the active hormonal birth control pills as you usually would up until day 21.

When day 22 arrives (aka the day menstrual cycles typically arrive), pop your remaining placebo pills away in a safe place. You’ll need these later to kickstart your period again when you’re ready.

Then, continue taking active pills from a new pack of hormonal birth control for the number of days you wish to delay your period.

Once you’ve taken the number of active pills to align with your desired number of delay days, revert back to the placebo pills you’ve popped away.

Menstrual blood should flow a few days later.

Keep in mind that you may still experience heavy periods, painful periods, and PMS symptoms like menstrual cramps. A talk to your doctor will be beneficial in overcoming these.

As an example:

If you want to delay your period for three days, take active pills for 24 days instead of the usual 21 days. When day 25 arrives, begin taking placebo pills for seven days before starting a fresh round of active pills.

Is it safe to delay your period using the pill?

Using the pill to delay menstrual flow is considered reasonably safe practice, however breakthrough bleeding may occur in some instances, particularly if you experience heavy menstrual bleeding.

Youly Registered Nurse Liz says,

Delaying your period is very much a reality with most combined oral contraceptive medications as well as non-contraceptive medication alternatives. To maintain a safe practice of delaying your period, it’s important to make sure you’re aware of how to delay your period correctly and safely in line with current treatments. Speaking with your Youly nurse, doctor, or pharmacist is the best way to approach this”.

Reminder: it’s possible to make your period end momentarily or skip your period altogether using hormonal birth control.