There are a number of different circumstances in which women may prefer to delay having their period, such as during a holiday or if they are preparing to sit for an important exam. Although there are no completely guaranteed methods for delaying a period, there are a number of strategies which normally result in success.
The combined oral contraceptive pill
Women who are taking a fixed dose of the combined oral contraceptive pill (more commonly referred to simply as “the pill”) can simply begin the next pack without having to wait the normal seven days between them. Consuming the contents of two packs straight after each other is a safe way to delay a period providing it is only done occasionally. Once those two packets have been consumed you will still need to have a break of seven days before taking any more.
Women who take the biphasic or triphasic pill type will need to finish taking the final phase of those pills from the second pack, straight after the first pack is finished, or switch to a fixed dose pill. If you are at all uncertain as to the type of pill that you are currently taking, you should talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. Fixed dose pills are the most common form used, while biphasic or triphasic pills generally have a different colour on the pills or packaging throughout the month. “The pill” is of course also used as a contraceptive device for women who are having sex but do not wish to become pregnant. The combined oral contraceptive pill does not however prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, so the use of a condom is also advised when the pill is used for this purpose. (1)
How does it work?
Women who are on the pill do not undergo ‘normal’ periods. Instead they have withdrawal bleeds that take place when the oestrogen within the pill has not been taken. The pill’s hormones help to sustain the uterus, and withdrawal bleeds do not usually occur until the pill is no longer being taken, and the body’s hormone levels begin to fall (which tends to happen once per month within the week-long break between packets of the pill). Women who are not already on the pill may want to think about starting to take it several weeks prior to the time during which they wish to ensure they do not have a period.
Women who are not on the pill
Women who do not take, and do not wish to take the standard “pill”, but still wish to delay their period may be prescribed a hormone tablet known as Norethisterone. One 5mg tablet taken three times per day is the dose for this method. Some preparation and good organisation is needed in order to employ this method, as it needs to start to be taken three days prior to an expected period, and then continually until such time as having a period is acceptable, for up to a maximum of four weeks. This tablet should not be taken on a regular basis and only used occasionally for special events. Norethisterone is safe to take under normal circumstances, but may not be suitable for those with a heightened risk of deep vein thrombosis, and this issue should be discussed with your medical practitioner. A number of women can also suffer some side-effects including the likes of bloating, breast discomfort, a reduced sex drive and stomach upset. (2)
How does Norethisterone work?
Norethisterone is a progesterone hormone, which sustains the womb lining. Under normal circumstances there is a fall in the body’s progesterone hormone levels just prior to a period taking place, and when it goes under a certain level, the womb lining is shed in the form of menstrual period. Norethisterone tablets keep the uterus lining sustained with progesterone until the tablets are no longer being consumed, but it is not suitable as a contraceptive when taken in this manner.
Other options for delaying a period include a Softcup, a feminine hygiene product that can be a short term fix as it can be worn for as long as twelve hours after insertion, and contraceptive rings or patches.