How to delay your period: Is it safe, and does it work?

    Updated 24 November 2023 |
    Published 16 September 2021
    Fact Checked
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Jenna Flanagan, Academic generalist obstetrician and gynecologist, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Massachusetts, US
    Written by Olivia Cassano
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    Whether you’re going on holiday or you experience painful PMS, it can be tempting to delay or stop your period, but is it safe? Here’s everything you need to know.

    Key takeaways

    Ready to track your period?

    Is it safe to delay or skip your period? 

    Let’s say you’ve got a beach vacation booked and have bought some cute pastel shorts for the occasion. But after a glance at your Flo calendar, you sigh — your period is due that week. Contrary to popular belief, periods aren’t crucial for your well-being, and it’s OK to delay or skip them — as long as you do it safely and consult your doctor first. How simple it is, however, will depend on whether you’re already on certain types of birth control

    Before you get into the pros and cons of delaying your period, it can be helpful to understand what’s happening to your body during your period and whether it’s safe to delay this process. Periods happen because of shifts in hormone levels during your menstrual cycle. These changes trigger ovulation (the release of an egg into your uterus) and the lining of your uterus to build up. If this egg isn’t fertilized by a sperm, then the lining of your uterus sheds and leaves the body as menstrual blood

    While it’s a perfectly natural process, unless you’re trying to get pregnant, ovulating and having periods isn’t necessary. A 2014 review of scientific publications that compared continuous (nonstop) and cyclic use (taking the placebo pills) of hormonal contraceptives showed that they’re equally safe.

    Whether this feels like a tempting prospect so you can wear your pastel shorts with confidence or you want to regulate your periods, it’s crucial to remember that you should speak to your doctor before delaying or skipping your period.

    Benefits of delaying your period

    If you have an irregular cycle or experience unpleasant symptoms around the time of your period, then delaying it may feel like an appealing idea. Let’s face it: Periods can be a lot to handle, and research shows that given the choice, some women would rather have longer cycles and fewer periods. So, if you’ve ever found yourself wondering about the benefits of delaying your period, you’re not alone. 

    Knowing that your period won’t interrupt important events like a friend’s wedding or a family holiday can be a huge relief. You might be going through a stressful time — like moving houses, training for a sports event, or taking exams — and would prefer not to deal with period symptoms like cramps, headaches, and mood swings.

    If you have endometriosis, your symptoms may be worse around the time of your period. This is because both of these conditions are hormone-sensitive (can get worse as your hormones fluctuate). You may feel that skipping your period could provide you with some relief.

    Drawbacks of delaying your period 

    Even if you’re already taking hormonal birth control, delaying or stopping your period isn’t a perfect science. Everyone’s body reacts slightly differently to hormonal changes, and other factors (such as stress, changes in weight, and some illnesses) can cause a shift in hormone levels, which can cause changes to your cycle.

    Although it’s perfectly safe to take birth control without a break, it’s important to note that birth control itself can have side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, and unexpected breakthrough bleeding (which would defeat the point). Not everyone experiences these side effects, but if you intend on taking this route, it’s helpful to be aware of them and to speak to your health care provider. 

    How to delay or stop your period 

    Although there’s no “natural” way to delay or stop your period, there are medications that can change your cycle. They include:

    The combined pill 

    The combined pill is the most common type of hormonal birth control pill and contains artificial versions of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. You might be curious as to how the combined pill might stop or delay your period. It works by stopping or reducing ovulation, thickening your cervical mucus, and thinning the lining of your uterus. The logic goes: If your combined pill prevents ovulation (so no egg is released), then your uterine lining won’t shed, and you won’t have a period.

    Many people take their pills for 21 days, followed by a seven-day break or a week of placebo pills. These placebo pills don’t contain any hormones, so during this placebo week or break, you usually have a withdrawal bleed. Although this isn’t a real period, it can feel like one. If you’d prefer not to have a withdrawal bleed, then you can continue to take active pills, skipping your placebo pills or seven-day break. However, there’s no guarantee that you won’t experience any breakthrough bleeding at all. 

    Some combined pills are designed to be taken without a break, meaning there will be more pills in the pack before you take a break, lengthening the time between your periods. 

    Vaginal rings 

    The vaginal ring is a small contraceptive device inserted into the vagina which releases low doses of estrogen and progesterone. Like the combined pill, you can use the ring continuously to delay or stop your period. Simply insert a new ring without taking the seven-day break to skip your period. While the vaginal ring is effective at stopping periods, you might still experience some spotting or breakthrough bleeding during the first few months.

    Contraceptive patch

    The contraceptive patch works similarly to the vaginal ring or combined pill. It releases artificial versions of the hormones estrogen and progesterone into your body through your skin. Usually, you would apply a new patch once a week for three weeks and then take a break for seven days. If you’d rather not have withdrawal bleeding, then simply keep replacing the patch. However, there’s no guarantee that this will stop your period or any breakthrough bleeding altogether. 

    Progestin-only contraception

    Some people use hormonal contraception that only contains progestin without any estrogen. Examples of progestin-only methods include norethindrone 0.35 mg, which is also known as the mini pill. Some progestin-only methods work by preventing ovulation — but not all of them. Progestin-only methods also thicken cervical mucus, which makes the sperm unable to travel up to reach the egg.

    If you take the mini pill, you’ll know that you take it continuously (instead of having a week-long break). If you’d like to delay or skip your period, then you continue using your birth control as normal, but you may experience bleeding or spotting. Some people continue to have a regular cycle when using progestin-only contraception, and this isn’t a surefire way of delaying or stopping your period. 

    Think you know your cycle?


    Medroxyprogesterone acetate, or Depo-Provera as it’s most commonly known, is a type of contraceptive injection. You’ll receive an injection every three months, and you may experience lighter or no periods

    Hormonal intrauterine device (IUD)

    Some people stop getting their period altogether while using a hormonal IUD. The likelihood of this happening varies from person to person and the type of IUD you have. IUDs that contain a more active ingredient (levonorgestrel) are more likely to stop your period. In the first year of using a hormonal IUD, around 20% of women may have no periods. By the second year, that number may increase to around 50%.

    Contraceptive implants

    The contraceptive implant is a small plastic rod inserted under the skin in your upper arm. It works by suppressing ovulation and keeping the lining of the uterus thin. A common effect of the contraceptive implant is that you stop getting periods. However, this isn’t the case for everyone, and they will return once the implant expires or is removed. 

    Are natural methods of delaying or stopping your period effective and safe?

    To delay or stop your period, you need to find a way to prevent ovulation, and right now, there’s no medically recognized or safe way of doing this that doesn’t involve taking hormonal birth control. You may have heard about natural or home remedies that can change your cycle, but these are all myths or aren’t safe. 

    There’s very little research into how herbal remedies or supplements can impact your cycle, so it’s best to follow your health care provider’s guidance and avoid them. Similarly, you might have heard that extreme lifestyle changes can delay or stop your period, but this isn’t a method of changing your cycle since it’s dangerous and a sign that something isn’t right.

    Exercise and restrictive dieting

    Moving and stretching your body every day is good for both your mental and physical health. However, very intensive exercising and restrictive dieting may lead to your period becoming irregular or stopping altogether. This is called exercise-induced amenorrhea or hypothalamic amenorrhea.

    Your exercise and dieting habits may feel removed from your menstrual cycle, but it’s such a good example of how all your body functions are linked. If the amount of energy you’re exerting during exercise is much higher than the nutrition you’re taking in, then your body may start to prioritize and put a pause on some of the systems that aren’t essential for survival. One of these functions is the reproductive system. 

    For many people, this can be a really difficult topic and may not feel like the most comfortable thing to talk about with a loved one or your doctor. However, if you notice that your period has become irregular or has stopped altogether and you think it might be because of your diet and exercise routine, you should speak to your health care provider or OB-GYN for support and advice.

    Lemon juice or apple cider vinegar 

    It may be an old myth, but there’s no medical evidence that drinking lemon juice or apple cider vinegar can stop or delay your period. A 2014 study suggested that Tahitian lime (Citrus latifolia) juice reduced the duration and intensity of periods, as well as the presence of clots, but the research didn’t explain how or why that is. The study was also very small and only included 45 volunteers, so the data isn’t reliable. 

    Another myth is that drinking apple cider vinegar can delay your period. However, if you’re wondering how to stop your period with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, there’s no scientific data to prove it’s efficient or safe. In reality, consuming too much acid can irritate and impact the health of your gums, teeth, mouth, throat, and stomach

    Gram lentils 

    Some people believe that eating gram lentils a day before your period is due can delay it. Although lentils are generally good for you, there’s no scientific proof that they’ll stop your period from coming. 

    More FAQs

    What not to eat to delay periods?

    Contrary to what you may have been told, there’s no evidence that certain foods can delay or prolong your period. A restrictive diet or being underweight can lead to health issues like amenorrhea (the medical term for not having periods), so it’s not advised to skip foods to delay your period.

    Does coffee delay periods?

    It’s unclear how coffee affects your menstrual cycle because it hasn’t been researched much. One study suggests that excessive caffeine intake, smoking, and alcohol consumption can lead to irregular cycles and heavier periods. Another study linked caffeine intake with a lower risk of anovulation (missed ovulation), which the authors suggest may make your periods more regular. That said, most experts agree that caffeine is generally safe as long as you don’t consume too much of it and shouldn’t affect your period.

    What foods shorten your period?

    Although some people believe that foods like gram lentils, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar can shorten or delay your period, there’s no medical evidence to support this.

    Can alcohol delay your period?

    Having a drink once in a while won’t affect your menstrual cycle, but drinking heavily regularly can cause hormonal imbalances that can result in irregular periods and irregular ovulation. It’s unclear how much alcohol is needed to disrupt your cycle, and it may vary from person to person. However, it’s not advisable to use alcohol to delay or stop your period.


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    History of updates

    Current version (24 November 2023)

    Medically reviewed by Dr. Jenna Flanagan, Academic generalist obstetrician and gynecologist, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Massachusetts, US
    Written by Olivia Cassano

    Published (16 September 2021)

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