During certain times in a woman’s life, having a menstrual period may be rather inconvenient for various reasons. In these instances she may wish to delay her period for a few days or weeks. While it is possible to do so, this should not be done frequently as it may lead to other problems such as irregular periods. It is advisable to consult with a doctor before taking any measures to delay a period to discuss the methods and consequences.
Menstruation is the cyclic monthly bleeding that occurs in a woman throughout her childbearing age. The menstrual cycle is controlled by a number of hormones, of which fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels at different phases of the cycle are responsible for the bleeding produced during menstruation. In the first half of the menstrual cycle, there is a rise in the female hormone estrogen. Ovulation (release of the ova or egg from the ovary) usually occurs on day 14 of a regular 28 day cycle. The ovaries secrete both estrogen and progesterone which help to prepare the uterus for pregnancy, should fertilization take place. If the egg is not fertilized by a sperm and pregnancy does not occur, the hormone levels fall. This results in the uterine lining being shed, which comes out with blood through the vagina as menstruation.
Reasons for Postponing Menstruation
- Going on a holiday.
- Taking part in a sporting event.
- During examinations.
- Taking part in a religious ceremony.
- Any other major life event.
How to Delay a Period
For Women on Birth Control Pills
The combined oral contraceptive pill or the birth control pill contains both estrogen and progesterone. Normally, these pills are taken every day for 21 days, with a break of 7 days during which the hormone levels fall and breakthrough bleeding occurs similar to menstruation. The next set of pills is started again after the 7 day break.
If 2 packets of pills are taken back to back, that is without the break of 7 days, there will not be a fall in the hormone levels and breakthrough bleeding will not occur hence there will be no menstruation. Once the pills are stopped, bleeding will occur in 2 to 3 days time.
Some packets contain 28 pills of which the last 7 contain an inactive ingredient or a folate supplement. With these pills, the last 7 pills are eliminated and back to back pills are taken after 21 days.
For Women Not on Birth Control Pills
Norethisterone is a synthetic hormone similar to the sex hormone progesterone. As explained earlier, decreasing levels of the hormone in the later part of the cycle leads to menstrual flow. Norethisterone is most often used for delaying the onset of periods by maintaining the high progesterone level and thus preventing bleeding.
Norethisterone is usually started at least 3 days before the expected menstrual date. Norethisterone 5 mg tablets are taken 3 times a day. This may be continued for 1 or 2 weeks or till menstruation is to be delayed. Periods normally start 2 to 3 days after stopping the drug.
These pills are usually safe but norethisterone taken in this manner is not a contraceptive. Occasional side effects may include nausea, weight gain, breast discomfort, dizziness, headache, spotting, and risk of thromboembolism.