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Why Delaying Your Period is Useful

As many people will tell you, getting your period at the wrong time is just NOT ideal. Aside from the cramps, pain, and bloating, a badly timed period can leave you feeling unprepared. Luckily modern medicine has a trick up its sleeve to help you better plan your period!

There are a few ways you can delay your period or even stop it all together, giving you plenty of options when it comes to events like holidays where you might want to delay your period for a short amount of time.

Period delay

Period delay tablets are first on this list because they do what it says on the tin, they delay your period. Period delay tablets contain the active ingredient Norethisterone and can delay your period for up to 17 days. They belong to a group of medicines called ‘progestogen’s’, which are similar to the natural female hormone progesterone.

As well as delaying your period some women find Norethisterone tablets useful when managing heavy, painful periods and symptoms that come with serious conditions such as endometriosis. If taking a contraceptive pill to delay your period isn’t for you and you would prefer a temporary solution this a great alternative, although it is worth bearing in mind period delay tablets will not protect you from pregnancy.

If you would like to know more about period delay tablets click here to find out more!

Possible Side Effects of Norethisterone

When deciding the best option to delay or manage your period it is important to consider the possible health risks and side effects. Some side effects that can come with period delay tablets include:

  • Stomach aches,
  • Skin itching or rashes
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Breast pain or tenderness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fluid retention

Some evidence suggests that Norethisterone increases the risk of Venous Thromboembolism (VTE) in some women. Although this is rare you should avoid taking Norethisterone tablets if you:

  • are very overweight
  • have systemic lupus erythematosus
  • have had a blood clot in the veins or lungs before
  • have relatives who have had blood clots
  • are unable to move for long periods of time (for example after an operation)
  • have a serious injury or have major surgery
  • have a history of repeated miscarriage.

Find further details of this in the Norethisterone Patient information leaflet.

Back to back pill

The combined contraceptive pill (commonly referred to as just ‘the pill’) is one of the most common forms of oral contraceptives. Some common brands of this pill include Rigevidon and Yasmin. The combined pill generally contains synthetic versions of the naturally occurring oestrogen and progestogen which is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy if used correctly. It has the added bonus of making periods lighter and less painful.

The combined pill is taken for 21 days and then you take a 7 day break, in this time you will have your period which is generally lighter than your ‘regular’ period. After these 7 days you begin taking the pill again, and you are protected from pregnancy even in this 7 day break. 

If your 7 day break comes at an inconvenient time and you want to delay your period you can easily continue taking your pill instead and miss this break. This is considered safe to do and allows you to decide when you have your period, rather than it being a nasty monthly surprise!

Continue taking the pill for a further 21 days and then take a 7 day break, consequently delaying your period for three weeks. 

You can also use this technique with the Evra patch, a hormonal contraceptive that slowly releases hormones through a patch that is placed on the skin. It is generally worn for 21 days with a 7 day break for your period. If you would like to delay your period you can simply skip the 7 day break and move straight onto another patch.

Possible Side Effects of the Combined Contraceptive Pill

As with any medication, there is a small possibility of side effects, the chances of this are slightly increased if you are taking the pill back to back to delay your period. Some side effects listed in the Rigevidon Patient Information Leaflet include:

  • Vaginitis 
  • Mood swings 
  • Altered sexual desire 
  • Feeling/being sick 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Acne 
  • Breast pain 
  • Irregular bleeding 
  • Changes in weight 

As with Norethisterone there is also a slight increase of blood clots, therefore it is not recommended you take the combined contraceptive pill if you are older, a smoker, overweight, have high blood pressure, have migraines, have diabetes or you/a close relative has had a blood clot/heart attack/stroke at a young age.

Progesterone only

The progesterone only pill is an alternative oral contraceptive pill. Unlike the combined pill it is taken continuously without a 7 day break, meaning that many women who take it stop their period altogether. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘mini-pill’ or Cerelle Period Delay Tablets. The progesterone only pill contains a small amount of one type of a female sex hormone called progestogen, specifically desogestrel.

The progesterone only pill is a great option for those who would like to stop their period completely, though it is worth bearing in mind this isn’t the case for everyone particularly in the first few months of taking it. It provides a more permanent solution than the period delay pill that is better for occasional use.

Possible Side Effects of the Progesterone Only Pill

It is important to consider that different people find different contraceptive pills work best for them. Some side effects reported from the Progesterone only pill include:

  • Mood swings 
  • Decreased sexual drive 
  • Depression (you can find out more in our article about the pill and depression)
  • Headaches 
  • Nausea 
  • Acne 
  • Breast pain 
  • Irregular/no menstruation 
  • Increased body weight 

There is also a slightly higher risk of developing Thrombosis, the formation of a blood clot. The risk is higher in contraceptive pill users than in non-users, but the risk is believed to be lower in progesterone-only pills such as Cerelle. You should avoid taking the progesterone-only pill if you have or have had breast cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, or depression. Find a full list of possible side effects and precautions in the Cerelle Patient Information Leaflet.

Can I take Norethisterone and Desogestrel together?

Desogestrel is a progestin medication which is in the Progesterone only contraceptive pill, so it is not recommended that these medications are taken together. Both medications contain hormones that can affect your menstrual cycle, so it is best to avoid Norethisterone and Desogestrel together.

Natural options?

You may see some ‘natural’ period delay techniques floating around on the internet, but sadly none of these have yet been proven effective. Solutions such as vinegar, gelatin and lemon juice sadly are ineffective. Periods are a normal and natural part of a woman’s cycle, and in order to stop or delay them the best, safest and most effective solution is medication such as the 3 mentioned above.

Another way some women claim to delay their period is through exercise, and although heavy and extreme workouts can cause women to lose their period it is often an unintended consequence. There is no evidence to show that exercising to purposefully delay your period is effective.

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Can I Have sex on my period?

It’s important to keep in mind that whether you have a period, delay your period, or don’t have a period at all; you are entitled to feel in control of your body and your cycle. If the reason for delaying your period is due to an upcoming sexual encounter and none of the options above sound appealing, don’t worry. You can still have a fulfilling sex life even when on your period. Some period sex tips from include using dark bedsheets, showering before intercourse, and being open and honest with your partner.

Is it safe to delay my period?

It is safe to delay your period as long as you take certain considerations. For example Norethisterone is not recommended if you have a family history of blood clots, and you should not take it for any longer than you have been prescribed by your doctor or prescriber. Norethisterone has possible side effects such as breast tenderness, nausea, headache and mood disturbances. If you experience any of these or they become hard to manage speak to your doctor who may suggest an alternative.

Some side effects have been reported when taking the combined pill back to back such as feeling sick or unexpected vaginal bleeding. You can use of free Ask a Pharmacist service if you have any questions about delaying your period and its side effects.

There is some evidence to suggest that hormonal contraceptives can slightly increase the chances of certain cancers, but can decrease the chances of others. If you have any concerns about taking the contraceptive pill contact your GP or healthcare provider, you can also use our Ask a Pharmacist service for free, online pharmacy advice.

Further Reading

  1. How can I delay my period | NHS
  2. Delaying a period | Patient Info
  3. Norethisterone Information | BNF