There are times when it can be inconvenient to have your period, for example during a holiday, an exam or a special occasion such as a wedding. There are two main ways to delay your period during such times, depending on whether or not you are already taking the contraceptive pill.
How to delay your period (if you are NOT on the contraceptive pill)
To delay your period, you can use a medicine called Norethisterone for up to 17 days' delay. It comes in the form of tablets which you must start to take three days before your period is due. You must then take three tablets a day during the time you wish to delay your period (you can take the tablets for a maximum of 20 days, which will delay your period by a maximum of 17 days). You should get your period two or three days after you stop taking Norethisterone.
Norethisterone is a prescription-only medicine. Your GP can prescribe it for you, or you can order it through our online service if you want to save the hassle of booking an appointment and going to the clinic.
Norethisterone is not a contraceptive, and cannot be used to prevent pregnancy.
How does Norethisterone work?
Norethisterone contains the hormone progesterone. By artificially keeping your natural progesterone levels up, it stops the lining of your womb from shedding and delays your period.
How effective is Norethisterone?
Most women find that Norethisterone prevents their period from starting until they choose to stop taking the tablets. However, some women find that they have spotting or breakthrough bleeding while they are taking Norethisterone. Starting to take Norethisterone less than three days before your period is due to start greatly increases the chance of spotting.
Can I take Norethisterone?
Most women are able to take Norethisterone. However, Norethisterone is not suitable for everyone and your doctor will advise whether or not you can take it. If you want to order Norethisterone via our convenient online service, you must complete a questionnaire which will assess your suitability before the doctors prescribe you the medicine.
As a general rule, you should probably not take Norethisterone if you:
- have a liver problem
- have a personal or a significant family history of thrombosis (blood clots)
- have or have had angina or a heart attack
How to delay your period (if you ARE on the contraceptive pill)
If you're taking the combined contraceptive pill, you should be able to take 2 packets back-to-back to delay your period (skipping the 7-day break during which you normally get your period). For more information, see The Contraceptive Pill and Period Delay.
You can delay your period in this way if you take most brands of the combined contraceptive pill, including Microgynon, Rigevidon, Cilest and Yasmin. However, some types of combined contraceptive pill contain a different mix of hormones in each pill (these are known as phasic pills). If you are taking a phasic pill brand you should consult with your doctor before attempting to delay your period.
If you take Cerazette, or another brand of the the mini pill (otherwise known as the progesterone-only pill), you will be taking a pill every day anyway, so there is no way to delay your period by skipping the 7-day break.
How does taking back-to-back packets delay my period?
You normally get your period when the lining of your womb sheds. The hormones in the combined contraceptive pill help to sustain the womb lining, and so taking back-to-back packets sustains it for longer.
Is it safe to take packets back-to-back?
Yes, this is common practice.
Can I take more than two packets back-to-back?
Yes, you can take up to three packets of the combined contraceptive pill back-to-back to delay your period for longer. However, this will cause the lining of your womb to build up extensively, and your chances of spotting or breakthrough bleeding increase. You will also be more likely to feel bloated.
Do you often want to delay your period?
It is inadvisable to take Norethisterone regularly. If you often want to delay your period, your options include taking the combined contraceptive pill back to back or considering a Mirena coil. A Mirena coil can work for up to 5 years and most women have no periods or very light periods with this after the first 6 months.
For more information on long-term contraception, visit our contraception clinic.