Women's Health

4 min read

Is It Possible To Control Your Period?

Everything You Need To Know About Delaying, Shortening And Stopping Your Period

Everyone experiences their period differently, but we can all agree that menstruation is a nuisance.

For some, it’s a small inconvenience, but for others it can be a debilitating experience. Periods are like a subscription service you never signed up for, but there are ways to skip or opt out if you want (which is also true of a Daye tampon subscription). 

Science still can’t make sense of why we have periods, but we know that aside from the reassurance that you’re not pregnant, there’s no actual health benefit to bleeding every month. If you have a difficult relationship with your period, or if you’d just rather go without the bleeding and cramping every month, we’re not here to judge. In fact, this is a topic that often comes up during Daye’s Health For Breakfast events. 

We view periods as our fifth vital sign, a key indicator that lets us know how we're doing health-wise. That said, we believe in health on your terms, and all humans should have control over their bodies and reproductive health, and managing your period is a big part of that. Several methods help you manage, delay or stop your period altogether. 

The period delay pill 

Sometimes your period comes at an inconvenient time—maybe it comes when you’re wearing white, or on the day of a board meeting or the eve of a first date. Unfortunately, once your period has started there’s no way to stop it, so the only option is to ride the crimson wave until it’s played out. However, you can delay your period before it starts. 

Until recently, the period delay pill (Utovlan) was only available on prescription, but Superdrug has just made it available in the UK without a prescription. Women over 18 will be able to buy the drug on a walk-in basis after a short consultation. 

The period delay pill contains norethisterone, a synthetic hormone that mimics progesterone. It’s similar to the synthetic progesterone found in the combined contraceptive pill and the mini pill. It should be noted that while Utovlan is a type of mini-pill, it is not a form of contraception so you can still get pregnant while taking the period-delay pill.

Norethisterone acts by keeping your hormone levels steady, preventing the drop in progesterone that triggers the endometrium to shed (your period). Norethisterone pills need to be taken 3 days before your period is due, and you’ll need to take 3 pills a day for up to 20 days. Once you stop taking the pills, your period should come back within 3 days. Although it’s considered safe and risk-free, some women report nausea, breast tenderness, mood swings and headaches while on the period delay pill. Spotting is also common, and it’s also not recommended for people with a history of blood clots

Menstrual suppression with hormonal contraception

Most forms of hormonal contraception are also a good option for delaying periods, or stopping them altogether—known as menstrual suppression. The contraceptive pills, IUS, injection, vaginal ring, implant and patch all have the potential to stop your period from coming every month. If you find yourself needing or wanting to delay your period regularly, hormonal contraception is likely a better option compared to the period delay pill. People who are already on hormonal contraception do not need to take norethisterone. 

The combined oral contraception pill (COCP) and progestogen-only pill (POP) can be taken back-to-back without the 7 day break in order to prevent the monthly withdrawal bleed (which is often mistaken for a “real” period). If you’re on the COCP or POP and would simply like to delay your period, you can do so by taking it longer than 21 days for as long as you need to delay your period, and then have the 7 day break when you’re happy to bleed again. 

Similarly, the patch and vaginal ring can help you time your period to fit your schedule. They are both worn for 3 weeks, followed by a 7 day break in which you will have a withdrawal bleed. If you have a big event or holiday coming up and would rather not deal with cramps, leaks and bleeding, you can simply plan ahead and make sure your 7 day break doesn’t coincide with your holiday or event. The patch and ring can also be worn back-to-back without the need for the 7 day break. 

If you’d rather stop your period altogether but CBA to take a pill daily or regularly change your patch or ring, hormonal long acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods are your best bet. For most people, the contraceptive injection, implant and IUS will all reduce or stop monthly bleeds. 

Although hormonal contraception is an effective way to delay or suppress periods, the variety and your own anatomy will impact how well it will work. Breakthrough bleeding is always a risk with hormonal contraception, so even if you’re not having a regular monthly period, you might get occasional spotting. And naturally, please speak to your GP or healthcare provider about your medical history and current health before taking or switching contraceptive methods. A period-free life is not worth the potential side-effects of the wrong form of contraception!

What about non-hormonal options? 

Skipping or stopping periods seems unnatural to many, but there is no danger in doing so. Menstrual suppression is pretty risk-free, and aside from the occasional (and annoying) spotting, it’s a good solution for those who experience heavy and painful periods. This is known as “therapeutic amenorrhea”. 

The only way to delay or suppress a period relies on hacking your hormones, but there might be ways of speeding up your period once it’s already started. Note: these are not scientifically proven techniques, but they have no adverse side effects. First up is… orgasms. Sex or masturbation that ends in orgasm can stimulate the uterine muscles to contract, which in turn expels your menses.

“Orgasms stimulate a series of uterine contractions, similar to the contractions/cramps that occur during your period and help expel your uterine lining,” says Daye’s resident expert, Dr. Harry Baxter. “Although the research to prove this has not been done, orgasms could theoretically help get your period over and done with.”

A less fun option if exercise. Exercise is a proven way to relieve PMS symptoms and menstrual cramps, so even if it doesn’t make your period shorter, it may make it less awful.  

What *doesn’t* work 

You may have heard that another period delay method is taking very high doses of ibuprofen. While this is technically true, it’s not something doctors would advise doing. “The shedding of your uterus lining is an inflammatory process so taking an anti-inflammatory (e.g. ibuprofen) partially blocks this process and has been shown to reduce volume of blood loss,” says Dr. Baxter. “Although this can be an effective as a one-off, it is by no means a long-term solution, as anti-inflammatories increase your risk of gastric ulcers and kidney injury.”

Another myth is that what period care solution you use will impact the length of your period, but there is no evidence to back up this claim. Some think that tampons block the blood flow, making your period last longer, some think that since they absorb the flow it makes your period shorter. The theory that sanitary products can impact the length of your period has no basis, and is likely because different period care solutions work for different people. 

Whether it’s a tampon, cup, pad or period-proof underwear, the best option is the one that makes your period easier to manage. Choosing the method that makes you feel most comfortable—and less stressed out—will inevitably make it feel like your period is over quicker. The easier your period is to manage = the less it’s on your mind. Maybe all those patronising tampon adverts we saw growing up had a point? 

If you’d like to know more about the period delay pill or hormonal contraception, message us by tapping on the chat icon on the bottom right of the screen, email hello@yourdaye.com, or DM us on Instagram

TL;DR
  • Norethisterone, AKA the period delay pill, delays menstrual bleeding for those not on hormonal contraception. You do not need to take norethisterone if you are on hormonal contraception, as many forms of it can delay or suppress menstrual bleeding. 
  • Norethisterone acts by keeping your hormone levels steady, preventing the drop in progesterone that triggers the endometrium to shed (your period). 
  • There is no health risk associated with taking norethisterone, unless you have a history of blood clots. Skipping or delaying periods with norethisterone is perfectly safe, but it’s important to speak to your GP or healthcare provider before taking norethisterone. 
  • It is not advised to take high doses of ibuprofen in order to delay your period. 
  • Currently there is no proven method to stop your period once it has already started. 
  • There is no proven way to shorten the length of your period. The myth that different sanitary products have an effect on how long your period lasts is exactly that, a myth.

Illustrations by Erin Rommel. Erin is the founder of @second.marriage, a Brooklyn-based brand, illustration, and design studio.

Written by Liv Cassano. Liv is the Editor of Vitals, follow her at @liv_css.

Endometrium IUS Norethisterone

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