What Is Period Delay?
Period delay is a term that encompasses ways to stop your period occurring for a length of time. Period delay treatments contain a high dose of artificial progesterone, which is used to push back the beginning of your period. Progesterone is essential as it plays an important part in the menstrual cycle. At some point in their lives, all women will want their period to arrive earlier or later than expected. Whilst it's not possible to make your period arrive early, it is entirely possible to postpone it.
Taking period delay medications, such as Norethisterone, can postpone your period for up to 14 days. Delaying your period for this length of time offers much more spontaneity with regards to when your next period begins. The effects of painful periods, heavy periods and cramps are reduced when using period delay treatments.
Is Period Delay Safe?
It is safe to delay your period for a few weeks. It's achieved with progesterone hormones in the combined pill or with a treatment called Norethisterone. They are safe if you use them according to the directions.
You shouldn't try to delay your period on a regular basis, as hormones may cause side effects. If you want to avoid periods there are certain methods of contraception that can reduce the frequency of your bleeds. These include contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices and implants. If these options do not stop your periods they are likely to lighten and shorten them, which is a huge benefit to women who have heavy periods that last a long time.
Speak to your doctor about methods of hormonal control over periods if you need a long term solution.
Why delay your period?
Women can want to delay their periods for a number of reasons. Everyone has a different lifestyle and expectations, but common reasons to want to delay a bleed include holidays, exams, a big work deadline, a sporting event, a wedding day, honeymoon or long distance travel. This is because periods require attention every few hours; if you bleed heavily it can be an hourly occurrence to change sanitary wear. Some type of sanitary wear last longer, such as a mooncup over sanitary towels for example, but all need to be changed regularly or you risk toxic shock syndrome.
Toxic shock syndrome is an overgrowth of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus, often shortened to 'staph'. It's associated with the use of super-absorbent tampons - the type women may wish to use if toilet facilities are not known in advance or if it would be inconvenient to spend time changing a tampon, e.g. an exam. Toxic shock is rare but life-threatening. Symptoms include:
- A sudden high fever
- Low blood pressure
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
- A sunburn-type rash on your palms and soles
If you experience these symptoms when you are menstruating seek medical advice immediately. It's important to regularly change your sanitary protection when you are menstruating. If that is not possible then period delay treatment is a sensible choice.
Along with delaying the physical symptoms, women often want to avoid the PMS that accompanies a period. PMS can often precede a bleed and lengthen the amount of time your period affects you.
The shift in hormones produced by the sudden drop in progesterone can change a woman's emotional response, her ability to concentrate and her attitude to problems or challenges. If for example, you've been working hard on a project and the deadline for presentation is set you will not want PMS to undermine your previous hard work. PMS can pull the rug from beneath the most confident woman, but period delay methods can prevent both physical bleeds and PMS symptoms.
How To Delay Your Period
There are two ways you can delay a period successfully. Using a combined contraceptive pill or taking a course of Norethisterone tablets.
The combined contraceptive pill:
If you currently take the combined contraceptive pill you can skip your period by taking two packets of pill back to back. You should follow the instructions in your medical leaflet.
- Monophasic pill: You take a pill for 21 days followed by a seven-day break. To delay your period start your second packet of pills on day 22.
- Everyday Pills (ED pill): Your pills contain 21 active pills and seven dummy pills. In order to miss your period, you need to take all 21 active pills and then leave the dummy ones. Start taking a new packet of pills on day 22.
- Phasic 21-day pills. These pills contain a mixture of hormones so it's trickier to delay your period. You will need to ask your GP which pills you should leave out to delay your period.
If you take your pills as outlined above they will still work as a contraceptive.
Don't take more than two packets in succession unless your doctor tells you too, as this could cause side effects such as bloating, breakthrough bleeding and stomach pains.
Not everyone is suitable for the combined pill. This is usually due to its oestrogen content. You are not suitable for the combined pill if you have any of the following conditions or lifestyle choices.
- If think you are pregnant
- If you smoke and are over 35
- If you stopped smoking over a year ago and are over 35
- If you are overweight
- If your current medications cause a contraindication
- If you have or have had a blood clot
- If you have heart disease including high blood pressure
- If you experience migraines with visual disturbances
- If you've had breast cancer
- If you have gallbladder or liver disease
- If you have been diabetic for over 20 years or have diabetes with complications
The combined pill may cause some side effects in some individuals. The more common ones include nausea, diarrhoea, breast tenderness, headaches, mood changes and high blood pressure.
There are other more serious side effects associated with the combined pill too, including a raised risk of blood clots and certain cancers. Your doctor will give you more information about the raised risks. The risks are very small and the majority of women use the pill as a contraceptive and a period delay treatment with no problems.
If you currently take the mini pill it's not possible to delay a period. If you are taking a newer form of mini pill that contains desogestrel e.g. Cerazette, you may find that you do not have periods because desogestrel prevents ovulation in 97% of cycles.
You will need to speak to your doctor about swapping to a combined contraceptive pill or about the second-period delay option, which is taking a course of Norethisterone.
Norethisterone is a prescription medicine that will delay your period for up to two weeks.
Norethisterone contains the female sex hormone progesterone, which is also found along with oestrogen in the combined pill. Progesterone prevents your womb from shedding its lining, so as long as you take progesterone pills your body will not move into the shedding point of its cycle.
There is no oestrogen in progesterone, so if you are not suited to the combined pill you can still use it as a period delay treatment.
Norethisterone needs to be taken three times a day to keep your progesterone levels up. The dosage is a 5mg tablet that should be swallowed whole with a glass of water.
To prevent a period you need to start three to four days before your period is due, so to successfully use Norethisterone you need to be aware of your cycle. It's good practice to be aware when your period is due, but without knowing this information you cannot delay a bleed with Norethisterone.
When you stop taking Norethisterone it will trigger the shedding cycle of your period and your period will begin two to three days later.
Norethisterone is not a contraceptive, although it contains some of the same ingredients as contraceptive pills.
In some medical cases a higher dose of Norethisterone is taken by women with endometriosis or heavy painful periods in order to manage their condition. Women that have breast cancer can take a high dose of Norethisterone to help symptoms.
Norethisterone is used successfully by many women to delay their period, but there can be some side effects. The most common are:
- Stomach ache
- Breast tenderness
- Skin rashes
- Disturbances in mood and sex drive
Other rare but more serious side effects include:
- A rise in blood pressure
- Migraine or unusually bad headache
- Liver problems. (dark brown urine, nausea and abdominal pain)
- Sudden severe changes in your senses e.g. sight and hearing
- Blood clots
- An allergic reaction such as a tight chest, wheezing, hives or a swollen mouth and throat
Certain conditions may prevent you from taking Norethisterone. Your doctor will decide whether you are suitable or not, but generally if you have the following you should not use Norethisterone:
- Are pregnant or think you might be pregnant
- Are breastfeeding
- Have unexplained vaginal bleeding
- Have liver disease or complications
- Have cancers that are affected by hormones including breast, womb, and ovarian cancers
- If you've experienced problems with blood clots
- Have migraines with visual disturbance
Other conditions and lifestyle choices such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, kidney problems, epilepsy, varicose veins, chloasma, depression, high cholesterol, gallbladder disease, lupus (SLE), Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis or hereditary angioedema may prevent you being prescribed Norethisterone but your doctor will decide if its benefits outweigh any potential risks.
If you when you finish taking Norethisterone you do not have a period you should take a pregnancy test to rule out pregnancy. Usually stopping Norethisterone will prompt your body to shed its lining within a few days, but on occasion, it may take longer.
Benefits of Delaying Periods
The most obvious benefit to delaying your period is to gain control over your menstrual cycle. You can choose to delay a period that would otherwise ruin an event or make a work or social situation difficult for you.
Delaying your period to avoid the use of super absorbent tampons and the risk of toxic shock syndrome is a sensible step.
It's commonly asked if delaying a period will make it heavier. The answer is no. Your womb will not build up any additional lining. In fact, the hormones used to delay a period can often cause a lighter, shorter period.
What are the disadvantages?
Delaying your period with Norethisterone does not provide contraception. You will need to use another method such as condoms, the mini pill or a diaphragm. Remember that only condoms, either male or female, prevent STIs. If you use your combined pill to delay a period then no other contraception is necessary. You can take Norethisterone on top of your mini pill.
The Norethisterone dosage is three tablets a day spaced out evenly. Whilst this will delay your period it is sometimes inconvenient to take pills throughout the day. However, compared to dealing with a week-long bleed, most women find this a minor inconvenience.
There are some side effects experienced with period delay. The more common ones include bloating, breakthrough bleeding nausea, skin breakouts, breast tenderness and mood changes. More serious ones include raising the risk of a blood clot. If you delay your period because you are travelling long distance by air it's recommended you wear compression socks, and keep moving by raising your heels and your toes. Drink water and avoid or sleeping tablets.
Do I Need A Prescription For Period Delay?
Yes, you need a prescription for both the combined pill and Norethisterone period delay. This is because you may have a condition or lifestyle choice that interacts with the progesterone dose.
Both the combined pill and Norethisterone can interact with certain medicines such as antibiotics, antifungals, HIV medicines, epilepsy drugs and the herbal remedy St John's Wort. You should tell your doctor during your consultation if you use any prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
How Do I Get Period Delay?
Both the combined pill and Norethisterone are prescription medicines, so you will need to speak to a doctor to obtain them. They will need to be prescribed by your doctor, but after this initial prescription you can order different brands of combined contraceptive pills and Norethisterone online after an online consultation.