It’s almost that time of month. You’re about to start your period, but you have a big vacation coming up.
Instead of dealing with menstrual cramps, bleeding and bloating, you’re wondering what your options are.
Can you stop your period? And is it safe?
“A lot of people think if you skip your periods, it’s not safe,” says Ob/Gyn Stacie Jhaveri, MD. “But it’s actually very safe, if done correctly.”
Dr. Jhaveri talks about ways to safely stop your period and what methods to avoid.
Is it safe to try and stop your period?
Whether it’s for a week, a month or even long-term, it’s possible to stop your period.
Some people want to stop or delay their period because of special events like a wedding or honeymoon. For others, the desire to stop their period stems from a medical reason like:
- Heavy bleeding.
- Severe pain.
- Bleeding disorders.
- Uterine fibroids.
While it’s safe to stop your period, remember that your body is normally on a cycle, which ranges from 21 to 35 days. And it all has to do with hormones.
“Estrogen is the hormone that makes tissue build up in your uterus, which provides a nice cushiony lining for a pregnancy to implant,” says Dr. Jhaveri. “If you don’t get pregnant, that tissue needs to shed, and that’s your period. After you ovulate, another hormone, progesterone, is released and helps to keep you pregnant. But if you don’t get pregnant that cycle, the progesterone goes away and that’s when the period comes.”
That decrease in progesterone causes your uterus sheds its lining, which results in a period.
“If you can prolong the progesterone, that’s the most effective way to stop your period,” says Dr. Jhaveri. “You’re faking your body into thinking you’re pregnant.”
How to stop your period
It’s best to talk to your gynecologist about ways to stop your period.
“The success rate will be very different based on when you try in your cycle and what method you use,” says Dr. Jhaveri.
If you know there’s an important event coming up in the next few months, the earlier you can game plan with your doctor the better, says Dr. Jhaveri.
It’s also important to note that there’s no way to stop your period once it starts. And with all these methods, there’s a chance of breakthrough bleeding.
Here are some options to discuss with your doctor.
Birth control pills
With a lot of different brands and options, birth control pills are widely used to prevent pregnancy.
Birth control pills typically come in a 28-pill pack. Normally, you’d take three weeks of active pills, which contain hormones. Then, during the fourth week, you’d take placebo pills, which don’t have hormones.
But if you want to stop your period, you can skip the placebo week and start a new pack. That’ll keep your levels of estrogen and progesterone elevated, so the lining of your uterus won’t shed.
While you can continuously take the pills with hormones to prevent your period, Dr. Jhaveri recommends talking with your doctor about a strategy.
“With birth control pills specifically, it’s recommended that you have a period every three or four months to get rid of any additional tissue that is built up, otherwise it could lead to very irregular bleeding,” says Dr. Jhaveri.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs)
An IUD is a good birth control option for those who want an effective solution and don’t have to think about it again for a while.
A T-shaped device is inserted into your uterus during an in-office procedure. While there are copper versions and plastic versions, the plastic versions are the only ones that contain hormones. Many individuals who have a plastic IUD have lighter periods or periods that stop altogether.
“If you don’t want to have periods, you should consider a method that is continuous progesterone like a hormone-containing IUD,” says Dr. Jhaveri. “If you just want to stop a period for one cycle, an IUD is not going to be your best bet.”
Vaginal rings and patches
Like birth control pills, these methods deliver 21 days of hormones. You receive those hormones either through a patch that’s placed on your stomach and changed weekly or a plastic ring that’s inserted into your vagina for three weeks.
After the three weeks, you typically remove those methods for a week to have your period. But if you want to stop or skip your period, use a new patch or ring right after 21 days.
“Similar to birth control pills, you would just use these methods continuously to stop your period” ” says Dr. Jhaveri.
You can get a birth control shot every three months, which contains a high dose of progesterone.
“The shot has the highest success of stopping your periods long-term because it’s going to suppress the estrogen the most and suppress the buildup of tissue the most,” explains Dr. Jhaveri. “So, if somebody really needs to suppress their periods because of heavy flow or other problems, the shot has got one of the highest success rates.”
Due to its higher levels of hormones, though, there’s a greater chance for side effects like bloating, mood changes and weight gain. You should also consider that it’s more of a long-term method than other options.
“Once you get the shot, you’re stuck with it for at least three to four months,” says Dr. Jhaveri. “If you don’t like your pill, you don’t take it the next day. You don’t like your patch? You don’t wear it. But once you get the shot, it’s in your system for three months or longer, so it’s important to review all of your options before deciding which method is best for you.”
An implant is another birth control option that has the potential to stop your period.
A thin flexible rod, which releases progesterone, is inserted under the skin on your upper arm. While it can typically last up to three years, there’s the option to remove it before then.
“Implants have the same benefits of the shot and are very effective, but one unique benefit is that if you don’t like it, you can have it removed,” says Dr. Jhaveri. “You don’t have to worry about it staying in your system for an extended period of time.”
What doesn’t work
The internet is full of ideas and ways you can stop your period. But many of them are false. The following methods don’t work at stopping your period:
- Drinking lemon juice.
- Drinking salt water.
- Drinking water with vinegar.
- Taking the morning-after pill.
- Taking ibuprofen.
- Drinking raspberry leaf tea.
- Drinking pineapple juice.
“There’s absolutely no science behind why these methods would work to stop your period,” stresses Dr. Jhaveri. “None of these ideas are going to provide enough hormone regulation to stop your period. You can potentially hurt yourself by trying random methods and they can cause irregular bleeding.”
Your best course of action? Consult your doctor on the best way to stop your period.
Also, if you have high blood pressure or experience migraines with aura, it’s not recommended that you take estrogen, which can be found in many forms of birth control.
For most people, using some form of birth control to help stop their period is an option.
“If you want to successfully stop your period, talk to your doctor,” advises Dr. Jhaveri. “Even during a virtual visit, doctors can offer a quick 15-minute consultation to find out your medical risk factors and the best way to stop your period with the amount of time that you’re looking at.”