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Delaying Periods

 

Although periods are a natural and normal part of being a woman there may be times when you wish to delay a period. This could be due to an up and coming holiday or special event when it would be more convenient to delay your period until a later date.  There is no guaranteed way to delay your period but there are a number of ways where it may be possible.

Delaying a period using the combined oral contraceptive pill

If you are already taking a combined contraceptive pill you can delay your period by taking two packets back to back.  How this is done depends on which pill you are taking; monophaseic 21-day pills, Everyday pills or Phasic 21-day pills.

Monophasic 21-day pills such as Microgynon and Cliest require you to take a daily pill for 21 days followed by 7 days without pills when you will have your period.  To delay your period, you simply don’t take the 7 day break and start the next pack straight after you have finished the previous pack.

Everyday pills such as Microgynon ED and Lorynon ED require you to take a combined pill every day. The first 21 pills are active with the next 7 pills being inactive, when you have your period. To delay your period when taking these ED pills, take the first 21 pills, throw away the remaining 7 inactive pills and start taking the active pills in the next packet.

With regards to Phasic 21-day pills such as Binovium and Logynon, each pill is different and must be taken in the correct order for contraception to be effective. If you wish to miss a period, speak to your pharmacist about which pills can be missed out.

It is considered safe to use your combined contraceptive pill in this way; however, you should always consult the doctor who prescribed you the medication before doing so.

Some women may consider using this method to delay their period indefinitely. Although there is no evidence to show this is either safe or unsafe, you should generally have a bleed 2-3 times a year to allow the womb lining to shed, unless advised otherwise.  If you intend on using your pill in this way, always consult with your doctor first to ensure it is safe for you.

You cannot delay your period by taking Progestogen-only pills back to back.

How do I delaying a period if I am not already taking the combined oral contraceptive pill?

You can speak to your doctor about switching from your existing contraception method to the combined contraceptive pill, or about starting to take the combined pill if you do not already use an oral contraception.  In both circumstances you will need to start taking the pill a few weeks before the time you want to delay your period and will probably need to use additional contraception during the first few days of taking it.

Another option is the Contraceptive vaginal ring. This is a flexible ring just over 5cm in diameter which is placed in your vagina for 3 weeks followed by 1 week without. Like the combined pill you can choose to skip the 1 week without and immediately replace it with a new ring.

If the combined pill or vaginal ring is not an option for you, your doctor can prescribe Norethisterone to delay your period.  Norethisterone is not a contraceptive but a synthetic progestogen, similar to that produced naturally in our bodies.  The hormone progesterone is released during the second half of the menstrual cycle when an egg is released from the ovary. Progesterone prepares the body for pregnancy by maintaining the lining of the womb. When an egg is not fertilised the production of progesterone decreases causing the lining of the womb to break away and your period to occur. If progesterone, or it’s synthetic equivalent Norethisterone, is taken continuously, there is no drop in levels to trigger the shedding of the womb lining and you will not have a period.

If you are prescribed Norethisterone, you would normally start taking it 3-4 days before you expect your period to begin.  The prescription will consist of 3 tablets per day which can be taken for up to 20 days, depending on how long you wish to delay your period.  Your period should arrive 2-4 days after you stop taking the medication.  It is important to note that, as with the combined contraceptive pill, Norethisterone is unlikely to be considered suitable if you have a history of blood clots (thrombosis).

Other possible options are a contraceptive implant or a Mirena coil or Intrauterine system (IUS).  The contraceptive implant is a small flexible rod which is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. It is a long acting form of contraception that releases progesterone steadily into the bloodstream. The implant lasts for 3 years though it can be removed and fertility will return to normal as soon as it is removed. An implant can cause your periods to stop altogether but there is also the possibility that they just become lighter and irregular and, in some cases, your period can become heavier.

The Mirena coil or Intrauterine system (IUS) is a method of contraception which can, after about 6 months, also cause your periods to become lighter, shorter or stop altogether. An IUS is a small T shaped plastic device which is put into your womb by a nurse or doctor. The device prevents pregnancy by releasing the hormone progestogen and lasts for 3-5 years.

Is it safe to delay your period?

There is considered very little difference between your period stopping naturally, say during pregnancy and breast feeding, and artificially, although there is very little evidence of the long-term effects of using hormonal medication in order to delay periods.

There are a number of minor side effect you may experience as a result of delaying your period using hormonal methods: –

  • Breakthrough bleeding (unexpected)
  • Weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Acne

In addition to the above side effects, fluid retention can be worse and particularly effect those taking Norethisterone, especially if you suffer from asthma, high blood pressure, migraines or epilepsy. Some women also experience stomach upset and a reduced sex drive.

When seeking a prescription for any of the above medications, give your doctor full and frank details of your medical history and always read, in full, the patient information leaflet supplied with your medication.

Alternative solutions to effecting blood flow

It is possible to reduce the amount of blood lost during a period by using tranexamic acid and, with variable success, Ibuprofen. These medications will not delay a period but can reduce blood flow if you are troubled by heavy periods.

Tranexamic acid is an over the counter medication which has been shown to reduce blood loss by up to 50%. This medication is taken on days when your period is heavy, for a maximum of 4 days during each period.

Ibuprofen can also reduce blood loss during your period and in some cases stop your period.  Ibuprofen can also provide pain relief from stomach cramps and help reduce bloating.  A typical dose might be 200mg every 4-6 hours, for a maximum of 3 days, which may decrease your flow by 25-30%.  If you are considering higher doses or want to stop or delay your period, consult your doctor and only take medication as instructed.

A soft menstrual cup will not stop your period but is an alternative to tampons and sanitary towels. It sits inside your vagina and acts as a barrier, catching and collecting your flow. Once inserted inside the vagina, the cup will spring open forming a seal to prevent leaks, acting as a barrier, catching and collecting your flow. It can be kept in for up to 12 hours and can collect up to the equivalent of 3 tampons.  It is possible to use the soft, disposable cups, which can’t be felt by you or your partner if you wish to have ‘mess-free’ sex during your period, but ensure you follow the manufactures instruction.  Please note that a menstrual cup will not protect you against STI’s or from pregnancy, so use additional protection.

If you want to delay or effect your menstrual cycle, consider all the options and seek further advice from your doctor if you are unsure or undecided what option would best suit you.  If you are finding your period is too heavy for you to deal with comfortably, is causing you a lot of pain or your cycle changes in it’s regularity or flow, get checked out by your doctor.