Several rumors circulate among women about various ways to delay the menstrual cycle. Many women who are drastically over- or underweight do not experience menstrual periods due to the hormonal disturbances resulting from these two conditions. This leads some people to believe that extreme diets may be a way to delay the menstrual cycle. Similar beliefs exist around extreme amounts of exercise and stress, another two factors that have been shown to reduce or eliminate menstruation. These are not factors that can be controlled without dramatic and most likely negative effects on health, however, so most women turn to birth control pills or other medications to delay the menstrual cycle.
Typical birth control pills have three weeks of “active” pills that contain hormones and one week of "inactive" pills, during which menstruation is supposed to occur. To skip one month’s menstrual cycle, women taking contraceptives can simply skip the inactive week of pills at the end of the pill pack and begin a new pack immediately. Most of the time, this can be done with few or no side effects, but it is important to check with a gynecologist first, as there are some circumstances where this option might be unhealthy.
Many women wish to delay the menstrual cycle only for a few days, perhaps to avoid menstruating on a vacation. Sometimes, a gynecologist will prescribe another kind of medication that affects the hormones in order to delay the menstrual cycle, though the doctor will probably need a very good reason to do so. These, unlike birth control pills, generally only need to be taken for a few days at a time. These medication options are also generally safe for most people with a doctor’s prescription, but may cause some side effects.
Other women want to delay the menstrual period for a much longer time, or even eliminate menstruation altogether. Some brands of birth control pills use a three-month cycle instead of a one-month cycle, reducing the number of menstrual periods per year from approximately 12, at once per month, to approximately four, at once every three months. Some recommendations and guides exist on how to phase smoothly from having a monthly period to using birth control pills to reduce or eliminate the number of periods experienced with a minimal number of side effects, such as breakthrough bleeding. It is possible, but, as with the other options, one should make sure to get a doctor’s examination and approval before attempting to stop or delay the menstrual cycle to keep the health concerns and side effects at a minimum.