Monthly menstruation can be very painful. The hormone fluctuations can completely disrupt the state of mind, as a result of which some women can no longer function normally. In one woman, the loss of blood is not that bad, but in other women it can be a lot. There may be situations where a sanitary towel or tampon has to be changed every hour. In addition, cramps, headaches and possible nausea may occur. A link has been established between menstruation and bouts of migraines. This can be a good reason to keep your period to a minimum. You can choose to have your period once every six weeks, or maybe even not to have it for a year.
Another reason may be that a medical procedure is planned. Specialist and hospital schedules cannot be adapted indefinitely to your menstrual cycle, and you yourself do not may not want to have your period while in hospital, both during surgery and during the recovery period. This can also be a good reason to postpone or bring forward your period. Finally, there are social reasons. It happens to every woman once in a while; you have planned a great holiday and find out that you will get your period exactly in that week. Or you may need to make a presentation in the middle of the week of your period. Even then it is very nice to be able to adjust your cycle.
Fortunately, there are possibilities to postpone, advance or even skip your period, even if you are not taking a contraceptive pill.
What does the menstrual cycle involve?
The menstrual cycle is a monthly cycle around ovulation. In the course of the cycle an egg matures, the uterus is prepared for a possible pregnancy, the egg is removed after the fertile period and the uterus is cleared for the next cycle. The duration can vary from 24 to 37 days. This cycle can be divided into four phases:
The beginning of the menstrual cycle is marked by the moment when your period begins. This is day one of a phase that lasts on average five days, with a peak around the third day. Actually, this phase should be seen as the last one. It is the phase in which all preparations for a possible pregnancy are cleaned up. In this phase, the uterine wall lets go of the lining, the mucous membrane of the uterus, and discharges it together with the unfertilized egg. This is accompanied by blood loss, you lose about 50 millilitres of blood. In more than half of the women, menstruation is also very painful. You may experience cramps in the muscle tissue of the uterus, and headaches and nausea are also common side effects.
The second phase runs from the sixth day up to and including the fourteenth day. This is called the follicular phase. In this phase, under the influence of hormones, the uterus is prepared for a possible pregnancy. Moreover, in one of the ovaries an egg begins to ripen. It is ripe between the tenth and fourteenth day of the cycle.
The third phase is on or around the 14th day. The ovulation now takes place. In this process, the ripe egg cell separates itself from the ovary and ends up in the fallopian tube. Some women may even feel ovulation - often in the form of a shoot of pain lasting from a few minutes to hours. From this moment on, you are fertile.
In the fourth phase, the luteal phase, the egg is on its way to the uterus. During this journey, which takes a few days, the egg can still be fertilised. In the uterus, the egg can still live for 24 hours. If the egg is fertilised, it will settle down and the placenta will take over the production of hormones. If the egg is not fertilised, your body will automatically prepare to repel the egg. And that completes the cycle.
When you use hormonal contraceptives, there is no menstrual cycle. In that case, no egg ripens, and the uterus does not prepare itself for possible fertilisation. The bleeding from the first phase is therefore not menstruation, but withdrawal bleeding. In general, you can use the contraceptives that you already use to have this withdrawal bleeding take place sooner or later, or even skip it completely.
Research has shown that it is safe to use your hormonal contraception continuously for 1 year. You remain protected against pregnancy and there are no known additional risks. However, the risk of breakthrough bleeding increases, but this is only an inconvenience. You can solve this by incorporating a stop week and then continuing with continuous use. It has not been investigated whether it is also safe to postpone menstruation for more than one year, but there is no reason to assume that this is harmful.
What are the possibilities?
If you are already using contraceptives, postponing your period is usually easy. Please note that you can skip a stop week about 3 times. After that, the risk of breakthrough bleeding increases.
We will discuss the most important ones below:
Single-phase pill: if you take the single-phase pill, skipping a period is easy. If your strip has 21 or 22 pills, you can easily skip the stop week and immediately continue with the new strip. If your strip has 28 pills, the last six are placebos. Skip these and start immediately with the new strip.
If you want to plan your period earlier, it is possible to do so by starting the stop-week earlier. Make sure that you swallow at least 7 pills from a strip in order to do this.
Multi-phase pill: In two-, three- or multi-phase pills the composition of the tablets differs in a strip. You can postpone your period by continuing with the pills of the last phase of a new strip after swallowing the last pill from a strip. As this is more complicated, you can also choose to temporarily switch to a single-phase pill.
Mini pill: The mini pill is always swallowed, without stop weeks. With this pill you cannot adjust the length of your menstrual cycle. Again, you can choose to temporarily switch to a single-phase pill.
A vaginal ring or contraceptive patch: The same weather conditions apply. This contraceptive does not allow you to adjust your menstrual cycle, but it does allow you to switch temporarily to the single-phase pill.
Hormone spiral: This is the only form where nothing is possible. The spiral is not suitable for adjusting the menstrual cycle, and the procedure to remove it temporarily is too drastic for this purpose.
If you do not use contraceptives but still want to change your cycle, you can ask your doctor to prescribe hormone-treated pills. This allows you to postpone your period for a maximum of two weeks. The doctor will make a choice from the following means:
To postpone your period, start taking the pills two to three times a day for a maximum of 10-14 days 3 days before your expected period. As soon as you stop, the withdrawal bleeding will start two to three days later. This method is only intended for those cases where pregnancy in the relevant cycle is not possible.
A progestogen/oestrogen combination is preferred for early menstruation. Please note: agents with progestogen do not protect against pregnancy.
These pills should be taken two weeks before your expected menstrual period. Keep taking them as long as you do not want your period. As soon as you stop, menstruation will start after two or three days. This allows you to postpone your period for a maximum of two weeks, but if you have started taking the pills later, you can postpone your period for a maximum of one week.
There are alternative methods for postponing or bringing forward your period, but this is mainly a matter of tradition.
Ginger is a herb. Some believe that drinking strong ginger tea would speed up the beginning of the menstrual cycle. They believe that drinking ginger tea causes menstrual cramps and starts the menstrual period. This has not been scientifically proven. To make the tea even stronger, you can boil thin slices of ginger root in water for 10 minutes. This method of preparation is called a decoct; the water can absorb more of the contents of the ginger than with an infusion (tea). Season the drink with lemon juice and honey and then you have a delicious drink.
Also this herb is said to induce menstruation. You can make tea from crushed parsley leaves, or use parsley extra often and excessively as a garnish. Carrots, pumpkin, pomegranate, papaya and pineapple are other vegetables and fruits that could accelerate your menstrual cycle. Without exception, they are also very healthy products, so it is definitely worth a try! All these products involve raising your body temperature. If you supplement your diet with these products from about two weeks before your expected menstrual period, there is a good chance that you will be rid of your period before you go on holiday, or before you have to give that important presentation. However, this has not been scientifically proven.
Intensive exercise, whether through sport or hard work (e.g. sorting out the stables, etc.), can result in your period being postponed. In order to achieve this, you need to exercise very intensively, so it is not the most obvious method.
Nederlands Huisartsen Genootschap (2016), NHG Treatment Directive for Menstrual Delay, consulted on 2 May 2019, at https://www.nhg.org/themas/publicaties/nhg-behandelrichtlijn-menstruatie-uitstel
Niemantsverdriet, J (2017), Postponing Menstruation, how do you do that?, consulted on 2 May 2019, at https://www.gezondheidsnet.nl/menstruatie/menstruatie-uitstellen-hoe-doe-je-dat
Thuisarts.nl (2017), I want to postpone my period, consulted on 2 May 2019, at https://www.thuisarts.nl/menstruatie-uitstellen/ik-wil-mijn-menstruatie-uitstellen
Hendriks, R.J. (2017), Postpone your period, or bring it forward? 2 x 6 home remedies, consulted on 2 May 2019, at https://www.optimalegezondheid.com/menstruatie-uitstellen-vervroegen/
Conticonceptie.nl (s.j.), Hormone spiral, consulted on 2 May 2019, at https://www.anticonceptie.nl/product/spiraaltje/hormoonspiraal/