Periods can be extremely painful and they can also interfere with your life. Just think about it: you had been waiting for the big summer party for so long. Unfortunately, your period is also due at the same date. Or you had been saving up and planning your month long dream vacation. Your period will ruin the fun.

If only there was some way to delay periods so that they don’t ruin joyous occasions.

Actually, there is. You can now delay periods with the help of norethisterone.

Here Is How Norethisterone Works

Norethisterone is a synthetic version of progesterone that mimics the effects of the hormone.

During the menstrual cycle, your period starts when the levels of progesterone and estrogen go down. High levels of progesterone prevent the womb from shedding its lining. So by maintaining high levels of progesterone, you can stop the bleeding from the womb. Your periods can be delayed by as much as 17 days with high progesterone levels.  

Relatively Safe

A lot of women are using norethisterone without any side effects. For most women, norethisterone does not have an effect on their menstrual cycle when they stop taking it. Periods typically return within 3 days and they are not heavier or more painful.

To remain safe, it makes sense to use norethisterone sparingly only when you really need it. Women typically use it for holidays, long weekends and important events. They don’t feel any side effects with sporadic and light use.

However, you should read the list of side effects mentioned in the packet.

Do Not Use Norethisterone if You Have These Symptoms

According to Vikram Sinai Talaulikar (one of the founders of the Menopause Clinic London), women should not take norethisterone if they suffer from one of the following conditions:

  • Liver tumors
  • Acute Porphyrias
  • History of jaundice during pregnancy
  • Breast cancer
  • Pemphigoid
  • Pruritis
  • Vascular disease  

He has also advised caution for women who suffer from depression, heart disease and blood clot problems.

Dr. Talaulikar says that norethisterone is relatively safe for women who don’t suffer from the aforementioned conditions.

Symptoms Associated with Norethisterone

But he also adds that some women are sensitive to norethisterone and they will experience severe mood swings if they take this medication.   

They will experience symptoms like headaches, fluid retention, depression, low libido, skin allergy, breast tenderness, acne and increased facial hair growth. Also, some women still continue to experience PMS symptoms with the medication even though their periods have been delayed. These symptoms go away after delayed periods end.

Not Suitable for Regular Use

Dr Talaulikar says that although the medication will work fine for most women if it is used occasionally it is definitely not suitable for regular use. He says that postponing menstruation several times in a row will lead to irregular menstrual cycle and also lead to the aforementioned symptoms.

For women who do not want to bleed, Dr Talaulikar recommends safer methods that can prevent periods such as the Mirena coil, implants, and injections. He says that norethisterone should only be used to delay periods at times of need such as travel, exams or special events.    

How to Take Norethisterone

Taking this drug is very easy. Your GP can prescribe norethisterone to you. You should start taking this medicine 3 days prior to the date your period is due. Take 3 pills every day and continue taking these pills until the event – for which delayed your periods – is over. After a few days, your period will come back.

As with all medications you should always speak to your doctor and discuss its possible symptoms. You should also closely observe yourself for any symptoms while taking norethisterone.

Although it delays periods, norethisterone cannot be used as contraception.

Taking Norethisterone with Other Medications

The use of norethisterone can potentially interfere with other medications. Always consult with your doctor if you are using other medications and wish to take norethisterone.

Norethisterone should not be taken if you are using the combined contraceptive pill. Taking norethisterone with the mini pill may be fine – talk to your doctor about it first.

Delaying Periods With Contraceptive Pills

Women can also delay their periods with the help of contraceptive pills but this method is not recommended.

Women taking the combined contraceptive pill can delay the onset of periods by using the pill continuously. Combined contraceptive pills are taken over a course of three weeks followed by a one week break. To delay periods, you should skip the one week break by beginning the new packet immediately after finishing the last pill of the previous packet.

The first 21 pills are active in nature while the next 7 pills are inactive. For delayed periods, you will have to skip the inactive pills and start taking the active pills from the new packet immediately.

Your period will be delayed until you end taking pills from the second blister pack.

Since this method involves prolonged use of active pills without break it can lead to problems such as spotting or breakthrough bleeding.  Hence this method is not recommended.

Also, you will have to take active pills for three weeks prior to the event if you want to delay periods using this method. Such time lag is not acceptable.

With norethisterone, you will only have to take your pills three days in advance. This is much more convenient and you will have greater control this way.

Other Medical Uses of Norethisterone

It is also interesting to note that norethisterone is also used to alleviate pain related to endometriosis.

Endometriosis can lead to infertility, more painful menstruation and pelvic pain. The inside of the uterus is covered by a layer of tissue that has specific kind of cells. In endometriosis, cells similar to these grow beyond the uterus and they may cover the fallopian tubes, ovaries and even other parts of the body. This can lead to severe problems.  

Surgery is often prescribed for women suffering from endometriosis. Pelvic pain due to endometriosis can be treated with norethisterone. You can find out more from your doctor.