Periods, while a significant part of life for half of the population, can be more than a little annoying. They can cause discomfort at best, be painful at worst, and always seem to make their appearance at the most inconvenient of times. That holiday that you have been looking forward to all year? Oh hello, period. That romantic weekend away? Yep, your period will inevitably show up.

While it is part and parcel of life that females have to deal with at some point, there are ways that you can delay, postpone or even skip your period once in a while. This means that you can enjoy that special event or occasion without the fear of debilitating cramps, bloating, worrying about leaks and having to go to the bathroom every so often to change. Let’s take a look.

How can you delay a period, safely and effectively?

There are plenty of old wives tales around that will apparently delay, postpone or skip your period altogether. Some of these include:

  • Consuming apple cider vinegar
  • Grinding and consuming gram lentils
  • Drinking lemon juice
  • Drinking dissolved gelatin
  • Heavy exercise

None of these have any scientific backing for their efficiency and all come with some rather unpleasant side effects. What would more than likely happen is that you end up dealing with your period AND heartburn, sore mouth and gums, excess wind and tiredness. That is a combination that is almost certainly going to ruin your day.

There is a scientifically proven and medically backed way of delaying, postponing or skipping your period: norethisterone.

What is norethisterone?

Norethisterone-5mg PackNorethisterone is a synthetic progestogen that mimics the progesterone hormone that we generate naturally. The amount of progesterone hormone drops during a menstrual cycle, causing the lining of your womb to shed and your period to occur. When progesterone (or norethisterone) is taken continuously, the levels do not decrease, preventing menstruation.

You should start taking the medication three days before your period is due, and you must take one tablet three times a day for up to 27 days. This will cause your period to be delayed for this amount of time, and you will start to bleed between two to four days after you have finished taking them.

Are there any side effects associated with taking norethisterone to delay a period?

Most women can safely use norethisterone on an occasional basis, but it is not advised to use it to delay your period all of the time. As with all medications, there can be some side effects. These can include tender breasts, low sex drive, acne, low mood and increased fluid retention.

It is also important to remember that while it will delay a period, it is not a contraceptive. Other measures will need to be taken to avoid getting pregnant while using norethisterone to delay or postpone menstruation.

There are some women who should not take norethisterone to delay their period. These include women who have had liver tumours or breast cancer, jaundice during pregnancy or serious vascular disease. Doctors should not prescribe it to these women.

It also should not be taken if you are pregnant or there is a chance that you could be or you are breastfeeding. Women who have experienced unexplained vaginal bleeding should also be cautious as should anyone who has known or suspected genital cancer.

Because of the increased amount of ethinylestradiol – the oestrogen hormone – anyone who is at increased risk of blood clots and thrombosis should take great care.

Are there any other effective and safe ways of delaying menstruation?

If norethisterone is not suitable for you, or you want to delay your period in the longer term, there may be other options available. Your general family doctor or sexual health nurse can give you more advice. 

One option includes taking the combined contraceptive pill back to back. There are no issues with using this to delay periods when doing it this way as the bleeds that you get are not true periods, they are withdrawal bleeds. 

Many women find that if they have the Mirena coil fitted, or have the contraceptive injection their periods stop, or are less often or much lighter. However, this is far from guaranteed and even if you do not get a true period, you may still experience withdrawal bleeds.

There are various options available to females to delay, postpone or skip their periods. Your doctor will be able to help you to find the right choice for you and your situation.

Although all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it should not be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please speak to your doctor.

Authored May 25, 2021 by Joseph Issac, MPharm
Reviewed May 25, 2021 by Prabjeet Saundh, MPharm