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Period Delay FAQs

What is period delay?

Period delay is when you push the start of your period back by a couple of weeks with the help of hormonal contraceptives or high dose progestogen treatments like Norethisterone. Many women choose to do this because they have a special occasion coming up, such as a holiday or wedding.

How do period delay medications work?

Norethisterone can be used by women who are not on the pill and who would like their period to start later. Norethisterone contains a dose of artificial progestogen, which is similar to the progestogen in your body. During your cycle this hormone is responsible, among other things, for causing the womb lining (endometrium) to grow and flourish. Just before your period, the level of progestogen drops, causing the womb lining to be shed. Taking a pill containing progestogen before your period starts ensures that the womb lining keeps on growing, preventing it from being shed, until you are ready for your period to start.

Women who are taking combined oral contraceptives like the pill can also delay their period by skipping the seven day 'pill free' week and continuing with a new pack straight away. This simply pushes back the withdrawal bleed you experience during your pill free week until you have your next break from the pill. Please note that this may work slightly differently for phasic combined oral contraceptives.

When is period delay useful?

Period delay can be very helpful if you have an important event or occasion coming up, you have an exam to write or you are going on a holiday. It's also sometimes recommended by doctors as a way to ease premenstrual symptoms; periods that are painful, long or heavy; and endometriosis. Norethisterone is sometimes prescribed to women who are in the advanced stages of breast cancer.

What side effects can occur while taking period delay medication?

The most common side effects of using Norethisterone to delay your period include bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, nausea and a change in sex drive. Women who have been advised to use the pill to delay their period for a prolonged period of time may start to experience spotting or breakthrough bleeding. The pill or Norethisterone may cause other more serious side effects not mentioned here, so if you experience anything bothersome or severe, speak to a doctor straight away.

Will you still be protected against pregnancy if you delay your period?

If you are not using the pill and you are using Norethisterone to delay your period, you will not be protected against pregnancy, so it's important that you take additional contraceptive measures.

Providing you take the pill correctly, you should enjoy the same protection you would usually while taking your pill, however if you are considering changing how you take the pill to help with period delay, speak to your doctor first.

How long can you delay your period for?

It's best not to delay your period for more than two weeks with Norethisterone or, if you are using the pill, until your next pill free week, unless you've been advised otherwise by your doctor.

Is period delay dangerous?

Generally, delaying menstruation for short periods of time with the help of Norethisterone or the pill shouldn't be dangerous. Make sure that you only take these treatments for the purposes of delaying your period exactly as your doctor instructed, especially if you are using the pill to do so and still want to avoid pregnancy.

How long can the medication delay your period?

After you've stopped taking Norethisterone, your period will normally take three to four days to start again. If you are using the pill, you're likely to experience a withdrawal bleed during your next seven-day break from the pill.

Does delaying your period make it heavier?

It is possible with Norethisterone that your period may be heavier when you start again. This is because the womb lining was allowed to grow more than it usually would. However this is less likely if you only use it once during a single menstrual cycle. Similarly, you should avoid skipping menstruation more than twice on the pill.

How often can you do it?

Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, it's best not to delay your period for more than two cycles if you are on the pill and more than two weeks on Norethisterone. You should aim to have months where you experience your period as normal in-between times you choose to delay our period to allow your hormone levels to normalise.

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