It’s bound to happen occasionally: A vacation, day at the beach, or special occasion is going to coincide with your period. Rather than let this throw off your plans, it’s possible to speed up the menstruation process and reduce the number of days in your cycle.

There are a number of techniques you can try to end your period more quickly. Some of these are safe to do on a monthly basis, but others should only be used in moderation or with a doctor’s approval.

How long is a typical period?

  • The length of menstruation varies from woman to woman and is affected by many things, including stress, body mass index, and hormones. An average period can last anywhere from two to seven days, although some women typically have longer periods. Many women also experience a natural shortening of their cycle as they age.

1. Take hormonal birth control

Oral birth control pills and the birth control shot can both be used to regulate your cycle. Hormonal birth control can also decrease cramping and shorten the number of days you menstruate each month. If you’re just starting hormonal birth control, it may take several months before your periods become noticeably shorter.

Some kinds of hormonal contraception can reduce the number of menstrual cycles you get annually. For example, if you receive the Depo-Provera shot, you may stop having periods after the first year of injections.

Birth control pills and shots are available by prescription only. Together you and your doctor can determine which type is best for you, based on your lifestyle and medical needs.

2. Have sex

Having an orgasm, either through intercourse or masturbation, can reduce both cramping and menstrual flow. This is because orgasms generate uterine muscle contractions, which help to move menstrual blood from the uterus. These contractions also help the uterus shed the blood more quickly.

3. Exercise regularly

Maintaining a cardiovascular exercise routine not only promotes overall health, but also helps lighten your menstrual flow. It may reduce the number of days you have your period as well. Exercising can lessen water retention, which may alleviate bloating and reduce cramps.

Speak with your doctor about the best exercise plan for you. Excessive exercise can reduce too much body fat, which can lower your body mass index (BMI) to an unhealthy range. This can adversely affect your hormonal health and cause you to have no periods at all. Although that may sound favorable, it can have a negative impact on your reproductive health.

4. Take over-the-counter medications

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen, can be helpful for reducing cramps and menstrual fluid. NSAIDs help reduce overproduction of a natural, hormone-like substance called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins promote uterine muscle contractions.

NSAIDs should only be taken as directed. Make sure to discuss NSAID use with your doctor, particularly if you take other medications, herbal supplements, or herbal teas.

5. Ditch your tampons

Tampons block the internal flow of menstrual blood, which can prolong the number of days you have your period. Pads work by absorbing menstrual fluid after it has left your body. Using pads exclusively during your period may help to end menstruation faster. There are many sizes available for your particular flow. Find your best fit on Amazon.

6. Up your vitamin C

Large amounts of vitamin C may reduce your progesterone levels. This can help break down your uterine lining more quickly, which can shorten your period. Make sure to take only the recommended dose. Overusing vitamin C can cause side effects, including stomach upset, diarrhea, and insomnia. Get vitamin C here.

The bottom line

Ending your period faster on occasion isn’t a big deal, as long as you do it safely. If you want to shave a few days off your period because it appears to be longer than you think it should be every month, check in with your doctor.

If your periods typically last for more than a week, are super heavy, or cause painful cramps, you should discuss these symptoms with your doctor. It may be the result of an underlying medical condition. Your doctor will work with you to determine what’s causing these symptoms and how to best move forward.

Keep reading: How to use birth control to skip your period »

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