As soon as you get engaged, a whole mess of dates start swirling in your head—bachelorette, shower, wedding—always with the desperate prayer: Please do not let me get my period that day. But can bridal stress affect your period beyond that? The good news is you can, to a certain extent, tamper with Mother Nature. “I’ve altered many brides’ cycles in my life,” says Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University, with a laugh. “We can certainly manipulate things.” Of course, in order to control your menstruation situation, you need to know it first. (No shame in being a grown woman who still gets a surprise attack of shark week!) Try an app like Period Tracker Lite or Life Period Tracker Calendar, which will notify you when you’re ovulating or when you shouldn’t leave home without tossing a few tampons in your purse.
Even if you’ve been Regina Regular ever since that fateful are-you-there-God-it’s-me moment in middle school, don’t be surprised if your cycle suddenly feels a bit unpredictable—and blame it on being a bride. Lots of exercise from trying to fit into that dress, weight fluctuations, and especially straight-up stress can affect your flow and regularity. “My standard line when it comes to [brides] is, ‘Can I give you your prescription for Xanax now?’” Minkin says. “Seriously, a little anti-anxiety medication can help if that’s what’s messing with your period.”
One way to not worry about your period and its inopportune arrival is to not get it at all. For that, says Sherry Ross, M.D., author of She-ology, there’s the Pill (including extended options like Seasonale), Depo Provera shots, hormonal IUDs (as opposed to the copper versions), and Nexplanon implants. “Just give yourself enough time for the expected side effects,” she says. “All of these methods may cause irregular bleeding or spotting during the first three months.” After that, your period could potentially go away completely. “A development that is expected and welcome for many women, especially if your periods are traumatic,” Ross says. If you’re on the Pill, you can delay your period by skipping those end-of-month placebos and simply starting a new round early. (Always, always talk to your gyno or NP before tinkering with any part of your regimen.) Minkin recommends enacting this shift two to three months before your wedding so you don’t agonize about the possibility of breakthrough bleeding any time around the actual day.
Granted, not every schedule can be so freely negotiated—like the Depo shot that must be administered by a medical professional every 12 to 13 weeks to be effective. One bride, who wishes to remain anonymous, recalls getting her shot in the bathroom right before she walked down the aisle. During the tizzed-out week before her wedding, she’d missed her appointment, but luckily(?), her soon-to-be mother-in-law happened to be a registered nurse. “I’ll be forever embarrassed that she had to give me a shot in the butt under my wedding dress,” she says.
A longer-term period-busting option is a hormonal IUD. Future bride Mara, 27, says that since getting hers implanted almost two years ago, her periods have disappeared entirely: “I worry about so many things for my wedding, but getting my period in my white dress, or on my honeymoon when I’m always in a bathing suit, won’t be one of them.” And—after an excruciating 30 seconds during the five-minute insertion—she says, “I don’t remember it’s even up there.” She chose it because it’s set-it-and-forget-it for five years, at which point a medical pro will need to remove it. (Similarly, implants like Nexplanon are small, flexible rods inserted under the skin that last for three years and may also lighten or eliminate periods.) “I’m not ready to be pregnant,” Mara says of her Mirena IUD, “so it’s the perfect solution.”
If you are thinking you might want to go from no periods to #preggo at the drop of a hat (specifically, the sun hat you wear during your honeymoon), be aware you might need to give your body a minute (a.k.a. a few months) to adjust. Minkin says most women get back to regular fairly quickly after going off the Pill or an IUD: “Sometimes ladies get funky cycles for up to three months,” she says. “But it’s usually no more than that.” The notable exception is Depo Provera shots. Those hormones, Minkin says, “can hang out” in your system for up to eight months.
Remember, too, that when you don’t get your period, you don’t get PMS—so that’s always nice. But if you are still getting both, you can take a few steps to keep them from cramping your good vibes. Ross says that if you know you’re going to be exhausted, irritable, and crave all kinds of crappy snacks, be proactive with your diet (avoid processed foods) and exercise (endorphins combat period pain), and—this is key—maybe let your future spouse know to tread lightly. The final trick is distracting yourself, Minkin says. “Focus on something else—like the good time you’re going to have on your wedding day,” she says. “Dark chocolate might also help.” Just don’t stain your dress.