Women can occasionally choose to temporarily delay their period at times when it becomes an inconvenience during certain circumstances such as on a holiday, a special occasion or for religious reasons.
For women who are not currently on contraception, Norethisterone tablets can be used to temporarily delay a period. These contain a synthetic version of the female hormone progesterone which naturally occurs in the body and sustains the lining of the womb. When the level of progesterone falls normally at the time of a period, this lining is shed as a menstrual period. Norethisterone tablets therefore safely sustain this lining of the womb until the medication is stopped. A period can be delayed for up to 17 days by taking 3 Norethisterone tablets a day 3-4 days before a period is due to start. Once the medication is stopped, the period will usually start within 2-3 days. It is emphasised that Norethisterone is not a form of contraception and will not prevent pregnancy.
Women on the contraceptive pill can use their pill to delay their period instead of taking Norethisterone. This also works by sustaining the levels of progesterone and delaying the shedding of the womb lining. When the combined oral contraceptive pill is taken continuously (2 packets back to back) without the 7 day break, this will effectively delay a period and is safe if only done occasionally. Women using every day (ED) pills who take dummy pills for 7 days should discard the dummy pills and start the active pills straight away instead.
Norethisterone is not suitable for all women as it can’t be used by those under 18, pregnant or breastfeeding. This medication should not be requested more than once in 4 months as it is only recommended for occasional use.
Side effects of using Norethisterone tablets to delay a period are uncommon but can include; bloating, upset stomach, breast tenderness, nausea, headache, changes in weight, disturbances in mood and reduced sex drive. Rarer and more serious side effects requiring medical attention include; pain and tightness in the chest, disturbances of vision or hearing, unusually severe headaches and jaundice.