Some people may wish to delay their period for a few days or weeks to avoid bleeding at inopportune times, such as during an important event or vacation. While there is no guaranteed method for delaying a period, a person can choose from several hormonal contraceptives.
These hormonal contraceptives include:
- norethindrone, a form of progesterone
- combined oral contraceptive pill containing estrogen and progestin, which is a form of progesterone
- contraceptive patch
- contraceptive vaginal ring
However, most available options to delay or skip a period usually require people to already take hormonal contraceptives. Norethindrone is one hormonal method that a person can use without already being on hormonal birth control.
Each hormonal contraceptive method works differently to either reduce or prevent a period.
There is insufficient research to support claims that a person can use natural methods to delay or skip a period.
This article examines how people may be able to delay a period using different medical options.
For those who do not take a combined contraceptive pill, a doctor may be able to prescribe norethindrone to delay their period. Doctors may also refer to this drug as norethisterone.
Norethindrone is a form of progesterone.
The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom states that doctors will typically prescribe 3 norethindrone tablets per day. People should take these 3–4 days before they expect their period to begin.
A person’s period should return 2–3 days after stopping the medication.
It is important to note that despite being an oral contraceptive, it does not act as a contraceptive when a person takes norethindrone this way. A person will need to use another form of contraception, such as condoms.
People may experience the following side effects:
- changes in mood
- changes in sex drive
- tender breasts
How effective it is at delaying periods will vary between people.
The researchers suggest that norethindrone may be more effective than combined oral contraceptives in delaying a period when people are in the middle of their menstrual cycle.
They also noted that it also prevents breakthrough bleeding. This refers to bleeding between menstrual periods due to hormonal birth control. Breakthrough bleeding is also common in people who use birth control pills to skip their periods.
Those who already take birth control may be able to skip or delay their period.
Combined oral contraceptive pills
For those who take combined oral contraceptive pills, a person can take their contraceptive pill packets back-to-back to delay or skip their period. People should avoid doing this more than once without a break unless a doctor says otherwise.
A person will not be able to use this method if they take progestogen-only contraceptive pills.
According to the NHS, the way a person does this will depend on the type of pill they are taking, for example:
- Monophasic 21-day pills: For a typical cycle, a person will take the combined pill for 21 days and have 7 days without taking any pills. A person would skip the 7-day break and start the new pack straight away to delay the period.
- Everyday (ED) pills: Usually, the first 21 pills are active pills, and the next seven are inactive. To delay the period, a person can avoid taking the inactive pills and start taking the active pills instead.
- Phasic 21-day pills: In these cases, the mix of hormones can differ in each pill. A person should talk with a doctor or pharmacist about how to delay their period safely.
Learn more about monophasic birth control.
If a person is unsure about which type of pill they take, they should talk with a doctor or pharmacist.
A person may also experience side effects, including:
- unexpected vaginal bleeding
The contraceptive patch releases hormones through the skin.
According to Planned Parenthood, people place a new patch on their skin once a week for 3 weeks. The fourth week is typically hormone-free, which is when the period occurs.
To delay a period using the patch, a person can skip the hormone-free week and apply a new patch on the fourth week. This will not lower its effectiveness as a form of contraception.
This is typically safe for people to do for a longer length of time. However, people should speak with a doctor to confirm that this is safe for them to do.
Birth control ring
The birth control ring is a small, flexible ring that a person inserts into the vagina. It stays in place for 3 weeks, and then a person removes it for 1 week to have a period.
According to Planned Parenthood, people can wear the ring in their vagina at all times and change to a new one every 3–5 weeks to skip their period.
There are two ways for a person to do this:
- A person can pick a date and ensure that they always change the ring on this date. For example, if a person places the first ring in the vagina on the first day of the month, they should then always change the ring on the first of every month. It does not matter that some months are longer than others.
- A person can wear the ring for 3, 4, or 5 weeks and change the ring on the same day of the week every single time. For example, if a person inserts the ring on a Wednesday, they should change it on a Wednesday every 3, 4, or 5 weeks.
A person may experience some spotting or bleeding. However, if a person decides to do this for a long time, these symptoms should improve after a few months.
There is little research to support any claims that natural methods, such as apple cider vinegar, can cause a person to delay or skip their period.
If a person is opposed to using hormonal methods to delay their period, using a menstrual cup may be an alternative. This does not delay a period, but it can prevent any leakage without using tampons or sanitary pads.
Menstrual cups fit over the cervix and collect the menstrual flow, allowing people to participate in a range of day-to-day activities without changing menstrual products as frequently.
Are there any natural methods for skipping or delaying a period that actually work?
There have been anecdotal reports of natural ways to delay menstrual cycles, such as lentils, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and lime juice. However, there is no scientific evidence to support the use of these remedies, and inappropriate use may be associated with unpleasant side effects.
Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPHAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
The risks of delaying a period in the short term are minimal. Studies show that reducing the frequency of menstrual bleeding does not cause any known physiologic harm and has potential short- and long-term advantages.
However, any potential risks and side effects typically result from the method a person uses to skip their period. For example, norethisterone may not be suitable for people with a history of blood clots.
Depending on the method used, a person may experience:
- tender breasts
- mood disturbances
- changes to sex drive
People should seek medical attention if they experience any of the following symptoms when on hormonal birth control:
- chest pain
- yellowing of the skin or eyes
- abdominal pain
- difficulty breathing
- a sudden, severe headache
- headaches with aura
People may wish to delay or skip a period for certain events or occasions. However, there is no guaranteed method to delay a period.
For those not taking the combined oral contraceptive pill, a doctor can temporarily prescribe a form of progesterone called norethindrone.
For those already taking the combined contraceptive pill, skipping the hormone-free week and taking two packets in a row may allow a person to skip their period. However, people should avoid doing this more than once without taking a break.
People already using either the birth control patch or the birth control ring can skip their hormone-free week to delay their period for longer amounts of time.
Researchers have found limited evidence to suggest that it is possible to achieve this using natural remedies.
If you do not take a contraceptive pill
They might be able to prescribe medication called norethisterone to delay your period. Your GP will advise you when to take norethisterone and for how long. You'll usually be prescribed 3 norethisterone tablets a day, starting 3 to 4 days before you expect your period to begin.
Apple cider vinegar is an effective natural remedy to delay the periods and provides relief to the symptoms of PMS. Dilute apple cider vinegar in water at least a week before the expected date of the cycle and it might be helpful.
Norethindrone (Aygestin) Aygestin is a pill containing the hormone progestin. Women with very heavy bleeding can take a 5-milligram dose, two times a day, from day 5 to 26 of their menstrual cycle. Its side effects are similar to that of hormonal birth control methods.