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Delaying your period

There are many occasions where women wish to delay their periods, to prevent it getting in the way of their plans. The most common reason for this is when for example travelling. If you are taking a combined oral contraceptive, you can delay your period by taking 2 strips back to back (omitting the 7 day pill free period) however speak to your doctor first before doing this. If you are not on a combined oral contraceptive then you can take a hormone called norethisterone to help delay your period (if considered suitable after taking our safety questionnaire).


Norethisterone is one of a group of medicines called ‘Progestogens’. Progestogens are similar to the natural female sex hormone progesterone. Progesterone in the body helps maintain the lining of the womb and therefore prevents shedding which occurs during a period. It can be found in many birth control pills, both the combined oral contraceptive pill and the mini pill. When taken as a higher 5mg tablet three times a day, it can help prevent and delay your periods. It does not however protect you against getting pregnant, so you should continue to use an appropriate barrier method whilst taking it.

How to take

Norethisterone 5mg tablet is taken three times a day and you should start taking the tablets 3 days before your expected period. We can supply a maximum of 60 tablets (enough for delaying your period up to 17 days) however if you require longer than this then you should speak to your doctor first. You will normally experience your period 2-3 days after stopping, however if this is not the case and you have been sexually active, then please visit your doctor to rule out pregnancy. Norethisterone is routinely used to delay periods, however it should not be used regularly particularly within a 4 month period.

Cautions and side effects

Norethisterone should not be taken with the following medications due to potential interactions:

  • Medicines to treat epilepsy (e.g. phenytoin, carbamazepine)
  • Antibiotic medicines to treat an infection (e.g. tetracyclines, rifampicin, co-trimoxazole)
  • Antiviral medicines to treat HIV (e.g. ritonavir, nelfinavir)
  • Anticancer medicines
  • Herbal preparations containing St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
  • Aminoglutethimide, sometimes used in Cushing's syndrome
  • Ciclosporin (for suppressing the immune system)
  • Non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for treating pain and inflammation
  • Medicines for high blood pressure

As with all medication, there are potential side effects when taking norethisterone, however these are not usually troublesome due to the short term treatment. Norethisterone can potentially increase the risk of blood clots in the body however the actual risk is low. The following scenarios can increase the risk such as :

  • Family history of blood clots
  • Previous blood clot in the vein or lungs
  • Being overweight
  • Being immobile for long periods of time
  • After major injury or surgery
  • Repeated miscarriages

Other side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Spotting
  • Breast Tenderness
  • Low or increased libido
  • Headaches
  • Fluid retention
Please note, very rarely as with all medications you can experience a severe allergic reaction. If you experience swelling of the face, throat, tongue or mouth or experience difficulty breathing you should seek medical help immediately. You should as with all medication read the information leaflet CAREFULLY and in full.

For more information please read the patient information leaflet here.