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No one wants their period tagging along on their honeymoon or destroying a much-anticipated sexy beach vacay. That sinking realization that a big event coincides with Aunt Flo’s visit can make you cry out “bring on the blood!” to get it over with sooner.
There are many reasons a woman might want to give her period a nudge. Maybe she’s looking for some reassurance that she’s not pregnant. Or, for some unearthly reason, a girl who hasn’t had a period yet might be curious enough to try to force one.
If you’re expecting a period, it might be possible to spur your flow a little faster, but take that with a bushel of caveats.
Here’s what we can tell you about these methods for inducing your period.
The “typical” menstrual cycle is 21 to 35 days. In a nutshell, menstruation happens when your body sheds its uterine lining.
That lining is packed with nutrients, so when you’re pregnant, your body holds onto it to nourish the fetus. If an egg isn’t fertilized during a cycle, the body flushes it out along with the unused uterine tissue.
If your period is late, there are several possible explanations, including:
- polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- hormonal birth control
- chronic conditions such as diabetes or celiac disease
- weight loss or gain
- thyroid problems
If you haven’t had a period by age 16 or have missed three or more periods, you may have what’s called amenorrhea.
The most common cause of secondary amenorrhea (not related to a genetic or hormonal issue) is pregnancy.
Here’s one of those caveats we mentioned — upcoming vacation or not, don’t try to induce a period if you suspect you might be pregnant.
Substances that can induce a period are called emmenagogues, and many are also abortifacients, which means they can harm a developing fetus or cause a miscarriage. Taking them in certain doses may also be toxic to you, leading to serious complications and even death.
A 2012 medical review emphasized the need for more research confirming the effectiveness and safety of herbs and plant extracts for reproductive issues.
If you do decide to try herbs, be sure to buy them from a reputable source, as the FDA doesn’t monitor herbs the same way as pharmaceutical drugs.
If you’re definitely not pregnant and want to give some DIY period boosters a try, here are some of your best bets.
Hormonal birth control
Hormonal birth control is the only reliable way to take the reins on your menstrual cycle. Run this plan by your doctor for help doing this safely.
If you’re on a hormonal pill, you know the drill: You take active pills for 21 days, followed by placebos for 7 days.
Talk to your doctor about safely altering your birth control cycle, since doing so could make them less effective. Typically, you take the placebo pills when you want your period to start, and then return to the hormonal pills after the seventh placebo pill — when your period stops.
Bring the sexy, bring the blood
Your girlfriends were right, a roll in the hay is the best way to bring on a full-blown period.
Having an orgasm can trigger your cervix to contract, pulling menstrual blood down. The good news, penetrative sex isn’t required to orgasm — you can make that happen on your own!
Having an orgasm can dilate the cervix, creating a sort of suction effect that gets blood flowing. Orgasms involve contractions that might spur the shedding of the uterine lining.
At ease, ninja warrior!
Yoga or gentle stretching might help relieve stress and encourage your period to happen sooner.
Exercising too much can decrease estrogen levels, causing irregular, delayed, or absent periods. Exercising in moderation can also help restore the hormones needed to regulate your menstrual cycle.
Warm your form
A warm bath or compress on the abdomen can do wonders for relaxing tight muscles, relieving emotional stress, and increasing blood flow — possibly of the menstrual kind!
Since both of those things feel nice, why not give them a try? Warm baths have also been shown to reduce inflammation and improve blood sugar.
Tune in to turmeric
Turmeric is the bright orange spice found in many stews and curries. It’s an herb in the ginger family and contains curcumin, which is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine to regulate the menstrual cycle and to induce a period.
Golden milk, made with turmeric, is a long-recommended Indian cure-all, but there’s little research to back up its ancient street cred. It’s unlikely to hurt you, but very large doses of turmeric could cause stomach problems.
You can cook with turmeric or purchase supplements online.
Heavy stress effects sex hormones like estrogen and can put a temporary kibosh on your period. So it’s no surprise that relaxation strategies might spur the need to bust out the Diva Cup.
Try taking a warm bath, meditating, going for a stroll, or chatting with a good friend — whatever helps you unwind.
Pining for pineapple?
If you enjoy the tropical flair of pineapple, which is a great source of vitamins C and B6, then go for it! Just don’t expect it to make your period arrive faster.
The enzyme bromelain that’s found in pineapple has anti-inflammatory properties and has been rumored to soften the cervix to speed up labor, but no research supports this.
Research does support using pineapple to reduce inflammation, so it might help you feel good while you’re on your period.
Pineapple is also safe to eat during pregnancy. There isn’t enough bromelain in pineapple to prompt a period or induce labor.
FYI: Bromelain in pineapple is destroyed during the canning process, so canned pineapple is even more useless than fresh in affecting any change in your menstrual cycle.
Bottom line: Pineapple is healthy and is a good source of bromelain, which reduces inflammation. So why not nibble on some regardless?
Get pumped for papaya
In ayurvedic medicine, it’s thought that eating unripe papaya might help bring a late period out of hiding, and some alternative medicine practitioners suggest unripe papaya might induce “proper menstrual flow.”
A study on mice found that papaya appears to have “anti-fertility” properties and seems to act as an abortifacient, so it could be dangerous for pregnant women.
Papaya has a ton of vitamins and minerals, so if you’re not pregnant, feel free to indulge.
Go wild with ginger
Wild ginger is a traditional Chinese remedy thought to stimulate the flow of menstrual blood and “chi” (life force). There isn’t enough research to substantiate its effectiveness on inducing a period, but ginger does have anti-inflammatory credibility and has been used for centuries to ease an upset stomach.
There’s no harm in giving some ginger tea a try. Chop up a tablespoon of fresh ginger and steep in a cup of hot water for 5 minutes. Enjoy!
Vitamin C – you later!
There’s so much hubbub about vitamin C inducing a period on the internet that you might suspect orange juice lobbyists are behind it.
Vitamin C supposedly raises estrogen levels and lowers progesterone levels, causing the uterus to contract and the lining of the uterus to break down and bid your body farewell.
There isn’t enough scientific evidence to support this though. Still, vitamin C is good for you, so fill your plate with kale, citrus fruit, and broccoli, and see what happens.
Dong quai — dong why?
It’s also loosely thought to stimulate blood flow, so it might be helpful in inducing a period.
FYI: Dong quai shouldn’t be used during pregnancy because it could cause uterine contractions and lead to miscarriage.
If it’s safe for you to take, dong quai supplements can be purchased online.
Pump the brakes on parsley
You may have come across parsley tea recipes to hasten menstruation. While the vitamin C and apiol content found in parsley may help stimulate uterine contractions, certain amounts of apiol are toxic and dangerous for pregnant women.
Parsley apiol in large doses can cause severe stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death.
Like the other herbal supplements mentioned above, black cohosh is thought to soften the cervix and stimulate menstruation.
Black cohosh is also known to interact with some medications and therefore isn’t recommended for those on blood pressure or heart medications, or those at risk for liver problems.
Since black cohosh works like the hormone estrogen, it’s possibly unsafe during pregnancy.
If it’s safe for you to take, you can find supplements online.
Your health is no joke, so absolutely reach out to your healthcare provider if you:
- could be pregnant
- miss three periods in a row
- are under 45 years old and your periods have stopped
- are still having periods after the age of 55
- experience bleeding between periods or after sex
- experience period changes (i.e. it’s much heavier or unpredictable)
- start bleeding more than 12 months after your periods have stopped
- experience bleeding while on hormone replacement therapy
Hippie-ish herbal remedies can be great, but be careful when messing around with your reproductive health. Medicinal plants can be just as dangerous as any drug; causing fever, severe stomach pain, vomiting, and even death.
It’s always best to consult your doctor before trying to manipulate your body’s natural cycle.