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There are many reasons why you might want to stop your period—maybe it’s your wedding weekend or you’re headed on vacation.
But whatever the reason, there are plenty of options to prevent your monthly cycle. One of the most commonly used is hormonal birth control—pills, vaginal rings, shots, implants, and even some types of IUDs can help stop your period. Read on to learn more about the available options.
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What is and isn’t possible
It’s important to understand that some things aren’t physically possible. You cannot stop your period once it has already started. You also can’t stop your period for one night or make it come faster.
Even though several birth control options do stop your period, this can take time and different options will work better for some people than for others. Some people may also experience irregular bleeding rather than no bleeding.
Birth control may stop your period
Hormonal birth control may stop your monthly period. These options use estrogen, progesterone, or both to mimic the hormones your body would produce if you were pregnant. Your body thinks you are pregnant, so your ovaries don’t release another egg and you may not have a period. Not getting a period is also called amenorrhea (Cooper, 2021).
There are different forms of hormonal birth control you can use to prevent getting a period, including Depo-Provera (the birth control shot), contraceptive implants, birth control pills, and intrauterine devices (IUDs) that use hormones (not all do) (Hillard, 2014).
While all of these options are very effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly, some work better than others when it comes to stopping your period (Bansode, 2021). None of these methods are available over-the-counter.
10 reasons for a missed period
Continuous use of birth control pills
Birth control pills come in packs that include hormone-containing active pills and placebo pills (pills without hormones).
When contraceptive pills were invented, the scientist who created them wanted to make them as “natural” as possible for women’s health, so he created a placebo week in which women would get their periods. However, this does not mean that you have to have a period every month (MacGregor, 2018).
In fact, taking birth control pills continuously in order to stop periods is a common practice for women who engage in sports professionally or recreationally (Schaumberg, 2018). Healthcare providers also prescribe oral contraceptives for painful periods, heavy menstrual bleeding, endometriosis, fibroids, and other conditions (Cooper, 2021).
Common side effects include nausea, headaches, abdominal cramping, breast tenderness, increased vaginal discharge, and decreased sex drive. If you take birth control pills continuously, you may experience breakthrough bleeding (Cooper, 2021).
Another downside of taking birth control pills is that you have to take them every day. If this is a problem for you, you may want to consider one of the longer-acting hormonal birth control methods.
Vaginal rings, like oral contraceptives, can be used continuously for menstrual suppression. They are flexible plastic rings you insert into the vagina monthly.
Typically, you leave the ring in for three weeks and then take it out for the fourth week. The week that you don’t have the ring in, you get your period. If you don’t want to have a period, you simply don’t skip that week.
Using vaginal rings this way is as effective as birth control pills for stopping your period. However, you may experience more breakthrough bleeding with the rings than with the pills (Hillard, 2014).
How long does birth control take to work?
The contraceptive implant is one form of birth control that’s likely to stop your period. In the United States, it’s sold under the brand name Nexplanon.
This form of birth control is a small plastic rod approximately the size of a matchstick. A healthcare professional makes an incision and places it in your upper arm under the skin. It releases a form of progesterone called etonogestrel to prevent pregnancy. The implant lasts for three years and unlike the pill, just does its job continuously with no need for daily reminders (FDA, 2018).
About one out of every five people who use the implant don’t have a period—there’s a chance that it will stop your period, but it’s not guaranteed. This change to your menstrual flow can happen within three months of getting the implant and may persist for as long as the device lasts (FDA, 2018).
Changes to bleeding patterns and your menstrual cycle aren’t the only side effects. Some of the most common side effects of these implants are headaches, vaginitis, weight gain, acne, breast pain, abdominal discomfort, and sore throat (FDA, 2018).
The contraceptive shot (brand name Depo-Provera) contains a form of progesterone called medroxyprogesterone acetate.
You need to get an injection every three months in order to prevent pregnancy. The contraceptive shot is an intramuscular (IM) shot, which means a healthcare provider needs to inject it into the muscle of your glutes or your arm (FDA, 2016).
Like the contraceptive implant, you can get the shot and forget about it (for three months). But unlike the implant, which lasts for three years, you need to get the shot more frequently and on time to ensure it’s as effective as possible—this requires frequent visits to a healthcare provider.
The contraceptive shot can change your period, but that doesn’t mean it will make it stop. Depo-Provera can cause your period to stop, but you may also have spotting or irregular bleeding. In clinical trials, 55% of women using Depo-Provera for 12 months reported that their period had stopped. After two years, that number rose to 68% of women (FDA, 2016).
The most common side effects of Depo-Provera include weight gain, headaches, nervousness, abdominal discomfort, dizziness, and decreased libido. (FDA, 2016).
There are several brand names of hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs) that use a progestin called levonorgestrel to prevent pregnancy.
An IUD is a small T-shaped device inserted into your uterus through your cervix by a healthcare provider. Once you get the hormonal IUD placed, it works for up to five years—and you don’t need to remember to do anything daily (Lanzola, 2021).
The most common side effects of the hormonal IUD that uses levonorgestrel are changes in menstrual bleeding, headache or migraine, abdominal pain, discharge, and vaginal inflammation.
Though changes in bleeding are common with the hormonal IUD, it may not make your period stop. Roughly 44% of hormonal IUD users reported that their period had stopped at six months of use and 50% reported this at 12 and 24 months of use (Pocius, 2021).
Non-hormonal birth control options
Can you delay your period?
For people who take oral contraceptives regularly, continuing straight on to the next new pack without skipping a week or using the non-hormone pills can delay your period. Similarly, using vaginal rings “off-label” and not skipping a week can push your cycle back.
Users of the other types of hormonal birth control don’t really have any way to delay their periods.
Choosing the best option
If you’re currently taking birth control pills and they’re working well, you may be able to simply take them continuously. If you’d prefer to not have to take a pill every day, it may be worth considering one of the longer-acting hormonal birth control methods.
Talk to your healthcare provider about your contraceptive and menstrual cycle goals, along with any concerns you may have. Together you will be able to come up with an option that is right for you.
- Cooper DB, Mahdy H. (2021). Oral contraceptive pills. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Retrieved on Oct. 2, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430882/
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2016, Nov). DEPO-PROVERA CI (medroxyprogesterone acetate) Label. Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/020246s058lbl.pdf
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2018, October). NEXPLANON (etonogestrel) Label. Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2019/021529s018lbl.pdf
- Hillard P. A. (2014). Menstrual suppression: current perspectives. International Journal of Women’s Health, 6, 631–637. doi:10.2147/IJWH.S46680. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25018654
- Lanzola EL, Ketvertis K. (2021). Intrauterine Device. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Retrieved on Oct. 2, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557403/
- MacGregor, E. A., & Guillebaud, J. (2018). The 7-day contraceptive hormone-free interval should be consigned to history. BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, 44(3), 214-220. doi:10.1136/bmjsrh-2017-200036. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29945924/
- Pocius, K.D., Bartz, D.A. (2021). Intrauterine contraception: management of side effects and complications. In UpToDate. Schreiber, C.A., Eckler, K. (Eds.). Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/intrauterine-contraception-management-of-side-effects-and-complications
- Schaumberg, M. A., Emmerton, L. M., Jenkins, D. G., Burton, N. W., Janse de Jonge, X. A., & Skinner, T. L. (2018). Use of oral contraceptives to Manipulate menstruation in young, physically active women. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 13(1), 82-87. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2016-0689. Retrieved from https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ijspp/13/1/article-p82.xml
- UpToDate. (n.d.) Contraceptive vaginal ring (ethinyl estradiol and etonogestrel [monthly, NuvaRing, EluRyng]): drug information. Retrieved on Sep 22, 2021 from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/contraceptive-vaginal-ring-ethinyl-estradiol-and-etonogestrel-monthly-nuvaring-eluryng-drug-information