Can I reschedule my period?

Originally Published: November 19, 1999 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 21, 2012
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Dear Alice,

This may seem a ridiculous question, but here goes. I have a trip planned to Hawaii and just realized that during my vacation time, I am scheduled to be on my period. Needless to say, that will definitely slow down my plans for ocean swimming and loads of tropical sex with my boyfriend. Is there a way to safely alter my cycle by missing birth control pills or other means?

—Hawaii-bound

Aloha Hawaii-bound,

A good question that's surely been on the minds of many women... How can menstruation time be rescheduled if it's to arrive during vacation, on your wedding night or during your honeymoon, when you finally hook up with your long distance lover, etc.? If you're already on the birth control pill and have been using it for a few cycles, you can probably successfully reschedule your period for your trip. How well this works will depend on the specific birth control pill you're taking, as some are more effective at doing this than others. It's a good idea to talk with your health care provider, gynecologist, or nurse practitioner before attempting to adjust your cycle, because they will be most familiar with your cycle and how it can be shifted.

To miss an entire period:

28-day oral contraceptive (OC) pack users: When you reach the end of the active hormonal pills in a pack (the first 21 or 24 pills), begin the next set of active pills, skipping the inactive, placebo pills from the previous package.
 
21-day OC pack users: Instead of going through the pill-free week, start the next pack of active pills the day after finishing an active pack. 

Using the active pills continuously postpones menstruation by not allowing withdrawal from hormones. However, this protocol does not guarantee that there won't be any menstrual bleeding. Sometimes spotting (light bleeding) can occur. Skipping the placebo pills or pill-free days won't change the pill's ability to effectively prevent pregnancy.

Some women or health care providers feel a little squeamish about rescheduling a period, others think it's the greatest innovation since the invention of the pill itself. In fact, there are now FDA-approved birth control pills that allow women to have their period four or fewer times per year, read Extended-cycle birth control pills: Putting periods on hold for more information. Even before these new pills came to market, many women were working with their doctors to avoid having a period by taking pills continuously.

If there's enough time between now and your vacation, or for future consideration, you can consisder switching to a pill that gives you fewer periods, if that seems interesting. Another option to contemplate is Depo-provera. It's a progestin-only form of contraception administered every three months as an injection. Depo-provera disrupts the menstrual cycle, tending to make a woman's periods less regular. For most women on Depo, spotting between periods is fairly likely. Some women even stop having periods altogether after using Depo-provera for a while. For more information, read Depo-provera from the Go Ask Alice! archives.

If the period postponement procedure is not an option for you because you're new to the Pill, or you can't or won't take hormonal birth control, you can still find ways to enjoy your vacation. Also, you may want to check out Swimming when menstruating while you're still here.

Have a wonderful trip!

Alice

December 3, 1999

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Dear Alice, This is in response to "Can I reschedule my period?" I went on an extended vacation out of the country and also decided that it would be easier to reschedule my period so that I wouldn't...
Dear Alice, This is in response to "Can I reschedule my period?" I went on an extended vacation out of the country and also decided that it would be easier to reschedule my period so that I wouldn't have to worry about it on the trip. I talked to my health care provider, and she told me that it was perfectly safe and many women skip their period every month. I decided to give it a try, since I was already on 28-day birth control pills. To make a long story short, I did miss my period, but half way through the trip, my period started again, complete with cramps and mood swings and everything. Worst of all, I wasn't even prepared with tampons/pads, etc, and since I was out of the country, it was a hassle to find the products. Also, my period lasted the rest of that cycle and right up until I started a new pack of pills. The moral of my story? If you're going to alter your period with the pill, at least be prepared if it doesn't work. (And try those new menstrual cups for a great, clean way to enjoy sex during your period.) Sincerely, Been There