I want to use Norethisterone to delay my period – I'd like to know how it works?

Progestogen hormone, made naturally in the body, sustains the lining of the womb. Decreases in the blood levels triggers shedding of the lining, which causes a period. By taking Norethisterone (progestogen) tablets, hormone levels don't fall and a period won't occur until 2-3 days after you stop taking it.

I was told I can use the pill to postpone my period – how?

If you are taking a fixed dose combined contraceptive pill (one which contains an oestrogen and a progestogen at the same dose throughout the cycle) you can take packs back-to-back to delay menstrual bleeding. By taking pills continuously, there will be no withdrawal bleed that causes your period. So, simply miss out the pill free week by taking two packs in a row. This does not apply to 28 day pill packs, where the last 7 days are dummy pills containing no active ingredients. See this NHS page for further details.

Why do I get monthly periods whilst taking the pill?

The pill (fixed dose combined contraceptive pill) controls the female hormones. One of the effects is stopping the thickening of the lining of the uterus (womb), which would normally occur in preparation for implantation of a fertilised egg. Thus periods are not needed. The (male) doctors who first developed the pill in 1958, decided that women would want monthly bleeds, as it would feel natural. Every three weeks the break between packs or placebo (dummy) pills result in decreasing hormone levels and a withdrawal bleed. As the lining is very thin, this bleeding is light. It is safe to miss the pill free interval and your period as above. Extended-cycle birth control pills, which are taken for 12 weeks with a withdrawal bleed in the 13th, are available in the US, but not in the UK. In the UK the same effect can be achieved by running packs of pills together. This is sometimes recommended by doctors, for women with heavy or painful periods.

My pill is the ED version – do I run packs back to back?

With the ED (Every Day) version of the pill, there are 7 'dummy' pills that do not contain hormone. These are taken at the end of the cycle, in what would be the pill free interval in the standard combined contraceptive pill. These are useful for women who find remembering to take tablets easier if there are no breaks. In order to postpone your period, you need to take hormones continuously, i.e. you must omit the larger 'dummy' pills at the end of a pack and go straight onto the next new pack.

I take a bi-phasic contraceptive pill – can I delay my period?

Yes. These pills vary in strength and ratio of oestrogen to progestogen through the cycle. You can delay your period by continuing to take the last pill type. So, after finishing your pack, you would go straight to the last pills, skipping the pill free week and also first parts of the pack.

Same question, but I'm taking the mini pill?

You should take Norethisterone as well as your normal contraceptive. Both the mini pill and the pill to delay menstruation are forms of progestogen. The difference is the dose. To illustrate: Micronor and Noriday are both Norethisterone of low dose (0.35mg once daily) whereas to delay a period Norethisterone 5mg three times a day is required. Other mini pills are progestogens and are of equivalent strength to Norethisterone 0.35mg.

Can I delay my period using exercise?

There is evidence sudden starting of a high volume of physical training can disrupt the menstrual cycle, but how much is directly due to the exercise and how much to weight loss is not clearly established. Although exercise may be a cause of period delay, it is not a reliable method to achieve this.

Can eating carotene containing foods affect the menstrual cycle?

It is said that eating beta-carotene, in orange foods such as papaya, carrots, pumpkins and pomegranate, raise the level of oestrogen causing an early period. Bringing a period forward can avoid having a bleed at a particular time. There is evidence that beta-carotene varies with the menstrual cycle, and that there is a link between beta-carotene and oestrogen levels. However the exact mechanisms remain unclear and eating the above foods is not proved to have the desired effect.

Can stress delay periods?

Yes, a natural response to severe stress is not to ovulate (hence not falling pregnant at a bad time) but is neither easy nor desirable to use stress in this way.

I was told that spicy foods bring on a period – if I avoid these can I delay my bleed?

This is an often quoted home remedy for advancing the onset of menstruation. There is no published data to support (or disprove) this. Either way, it is unlikely to be a reliable method.

Can I use herbs to alter my period?

Herbalists, past and present, use shepherd's purse and yarrow to reduce length and heavy bleeding at menstruation. There is research evidence to support the effectiveness of each to decrease menstrual bleeding but they don't alter timing.

Does taking Vitamin B6 supplements delay menstrual bleeding?

Medical trials involving Vitamin B6 looked at its role in the treatment of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). The low quality of most of the trials means that the conclusions may not be valid, but they do show that doses of 50-100mg/day can help with PMS symptoms.

Can eating gelatin delay menstruation?

It is said that gelatin has anti-estrogenic properties, which causes period delay. There is no scientific research to either back this up or disprove it. It cannot be recommended as a way to delay periods, only direct hormonal treatments such as Norethisterone or the combined contraceptive pill reliably do this. There is also no research to show that gram lentils or apple cider vinegar (other foods recommended for period delay) work either.

I've heard that heating the pelvis can bring a period on earlier – is this true?

Warming the uterus for example by sitting in a hot bath or using a warm compress on the lower abdomen, can cause local dilation of blood vessels and increased blood supply, which increases the menstrual blood flow.

Period delay treatment
Dr Tony Steele

Authored 14 July 2014 by Dr Tony Steele
Last updated 16 July 2020

Reviewed by Dr B. Babor, Dr A. Wood, Dr P. Hunt
Last reviewed 05 September 2017