How to safely delay your period

Have you got a holiday or special occasion planned, that also coincides with the monthly arrival of Mother Nature’s gift of your period?

If you’re worried your exciting plans could be disrupted by your period, you’ll be glad to know there’s a safe way to briefly delay your period!

What is period delay?

Your period can be missed or late from time to time for various reasons including stress or taking the oral contraceptive pill. However, there are some times where you may want to deliberately delay your period for special occasions such as a wedding or party, holidays, exams, etc. And that’s where period delay tablets come in.

Period delay tablets contain a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone, called norethisterone. Normally, your period bleed is triggered when progesterone levels naturally start to drop towards the end of your cycle, but by taking norethisterone tablets, your progesterone levels are kept high, preventing the bleed and allowing your period to be delayed. And you can do this for up to 27 days!

Unfortunately, if you already take the oral combined or progesterone-only contraceptive pill, you can’t take norethisterone tablets to delay your period. But the good news is if you’re taking a combined oral contraceptive, your period can be delayed by altering the way you take the pills. If you’ll be going down this route, it's advised you get in touch with our team and we can ensure it’s safe and appropriate for your needs and how best for you to take them.

How long does period delay take to work?

Norethisterone period delay tablets should be started three days before your expected onset of period (it takes three days to get into your system to allow time for your body to respond). The tablets will keep your progesterone levels high for as long as you continue taking them and can be continued for up to 30 days. So, it’s recommended you order them well in advance of when you’re planning to take them.

As everyone is different and has a different cycle, the ranges can vary from person to person and your healthcare provider will be able to advise you best. Norethisterone tablets are more effective in some people than others, but it is usually advised to start three days prior for the most effective results to ensure your period is delayed.

The dose is one tablet three times a day and menstruation usually occurs two to three days after stopping norethisterone tablets.

It’s important to note that norethisterone tablets are only to be used on an occasional basis and do not act as a form of contraceptive at this dose. If you’re looking to also prevent pregnancy, it’s essential to use additional forms of contraception, such as condoms.  

Side effects of Norethisterone

As with all medications, norethisterone has the potential to cause side effects. Some people may experience none of these and some people might, with varying severity.

The most common side effects are:

  • Irregularities in menstrual cycle (bleeding/spotting between periods)
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Changes in mood and sex drive

If you’re concerned with any side effects you may experience, speak to us and we can help advise you best.

It’s important to read the Patient Information Leaflet that comes with your medication for more information.

What to expect after?

Once you stop taking norethisterone tablets, your progesterone levels will start to drop and this will trigger the shedding of the uterus lining. Your period should commence two to three days after stopping norethisterone tablets, however some people may experience a delay in their menstrual cycle returning to normal. It’s also possible to experience some spotting in between periods and some irregularities in your menstrual cycle. This does not happen to everyone and can look different for each person - some people may experience shorter periods whilst others experience longer periods.

Unfortunately, period delay tablets are not suitable for everyone and you may not be able to take them if you or a family member have ever had a problem with blood clots (including deep vein thrombosis), if you have had a heart attack or angina, or if you’re allergic to norethisterone or similar hormones.

Norethisterone tablets must also be taken in caution for those who have epilepsy, migraines, asthma, heart problems, kidney problems or liver problems. If any of these apply, ensure you mention these in your online consultation with this for one of our Pharmacist Independent Prescribers to review.

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