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hormones, menstrual cycle

Can you kick start your period?

The short answer is no.

A while back I wrote a post I hoped people would find funny, 5 Guaranteed Ways to Start Your Period. It was an homage to all those inopportune times that your period seems to start. As of today it has been read over 97,000 times. As much as I’d like to think the viewership is due to my witty writing, deep down I suspect  it is simply because many women (and perhaps men) are looking to answer the question whether or not a period can be induced.

Why would people want to do this?

  • Maybe feeling premenstrual and wish it would just happen already.
  • Maybe wishing it would happen now and not on that trip next week/on your 5th date/when you want to wear your new white jeans.
  • Maybe out of pregnancy fears (if you can start your period then maybe you can breathe a sigh of relief).

What is important to understand is that a period even though it is the start of the menstrual cycle (day 1 of the cycle = 1st day of bleeding) is actually a culmination of all the hormonal events of the previous menstrual cycle, summarized as follows…

  • The brains signals the ovary.
  • Several follicles (which contain eggs or oocytes) start to develop. These developing follicles produce estrogen,Anatomy_and_physiology_of_animals_Ovarian_cycle_showing_from_top_left_clockwise which causes the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to thicken.
  • Eventually one follicle (the one that is producing the most hormone) becomes dominant and the other smaller ones not developing at the same pace die off.
  • When the follicle is mature it ruptures releasing the egg, which then heads down the fallopian tube in search of sperm.
  • The part of the follicle that is left behind is called the corpus luteum and it produces the hormone progesterone. Progesterone stabilizes the uterine lining, making it lush and ready to receive a fertilized egg.
  • Without fertilization the corpus luteum runs out of progesterone after 14 days or so. It is this withdrawal of Screenshot 2014-01-19 12.25.15progesterone that destabilizes the endometrium (the lining of the uterus), and bleeding occurs as the lining of the uterus is shed to get ready for the next cycle.

So, it takes 24-32 days to get to a period.

A prescription progesterone can be taken for 2 weeks and then stopped to mimic the natural withdrawal of progesterone that happens when the corpus luteum dies. If the lining of the uterus has been exposed to any estrogen the addition and then withdrawal of progesterone will cause some bleeding (as long as there is no pregnancy). However, depending on where the ovaries think they are in the cycle and how much estrogen is floating around from extra-ovarian sources (primarily fatty tissue), more bleeding could happen again at any time. BTW a pregnancy test is a far better way to figure out the pregnancy thing.

Starting the birth control pill is also a way to get a period, but it will take 4 weeks so not in my definition of a kick-start. The bleeding on the pill happens when the pill is stopped during the placebo week, so basically it’s just a progesterone withdrawal. If periods are irregular, this can be a fine way to regulate them.

A woman can take hormones to stimulate ovulation (such as clomiphene or human menopausal gonadotropin), but this is a rather complex (never mind expensive and not recommended) way to do it. These medications are reserved for infertility therapy.

For most people, as long as pregnancy has been ruled out, one late period means very little beyond the inconvenience. Stress, travel, exercise, and weight gain can all easily affect the cycle as the hormones that trigger the ovary to develop follicles are pretty vulnerable to outside influences. It doesn’t take much to upset the system. If a period is chronically irregular then it’s definitely time to have a discussion.

But unfortunately, there is no way to kick-start your period.

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Discussion

5 thoughts on “Can you kick start your period?

  1. Menstruation can’t be induced if it’s not due, but if it is then there are methods to induce menstruation (e.g. taking certain vitamin c products to starve the uterus of progesterone, having sex to trigger uterine contractions and soften the cervix, etc.). Methods used in herbal birth control and herbal abortion could also be used, but of course if there is a risk of pregnancy this is a big no-no, and also a big no-no if you don’t know what you’re doing.

    The problem is attempting to induce when menstruation is not due – you can’t speed-up the cycle or skip phases of the cycle – because women don’t track their periods with methods like FAM/NFP they guess when their periods are due based on past cycles and thus assume if their period doesn’t start exactly on X date that their period is ‘late’. The vast majority of time it’s a few days late, simply because our bodies aren’t machines so a little variation is normal, and people stress about it without needing to…better body-literacy would save a lot of stress.

    Posted by babybloodheart | January 20, 2014, 2:01 pm
  2. Herbs can trigger menstruation when you are late or due, I could list them here but then my post will probably never see the light of day. They’re called emmenagogues and if used correctly can trigger menstruation when your period is due or late, when used incorrectly (wrong amounts or wrong timing) they can be poisonous or just fail.

    I used herbal contraception for YEARS (without failure) and it did include the use of herbal contraception, emmenagogues, FAM and withdrawal. These methods take extreme dedication to charting and understanding your body, being extremely knowledgeable about herbs and a partner who is wiling to pull out and/or abstain when you are fertile.

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Dr Jen, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1.5

    http://www.ijcpr.com/PDF,IJCPR/Vol2/Issue1/IJCPR,Vol2,Issue1,Article7.pdf
    Just one article out of hundreds that explore emmenagogues.

    Posted by Oubli | January 20, 2014, 7:39 pm
  3. Boo! This news stinks. I wanted to hear something like “do 17 jumping jacks and you’ll be all set to go”. I’ll tell you what, my boyfriend refuses to walk the red carpet, so I’m going to get a headboard banger in tonight. It’ll make up for all of my PMS-induced witchy (with a B) behavior for him and will of course kick this thing off, probably right before I get the Big O and he’ll refuse to continue, but hey, my goal will be accomplished. A little sexual frustration for a lot of symptom relief sounds like a fair trade to me!

    Posted by Tonya | January 27, 2014, 5:51 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: 5 guaranteed ways to start your period | Dr. Jen Gunter - January 22, 2014

  2. Pingback: Society for Menstrual Cycle Research : » Menstruation Musical Theatre, Misconceptions about Conception, & More Weekend Links - February 2, 2014

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