How can I delay my period?

There may be some situations - such as going on holiday, having important exams or a special occasion like a wedding - where you may wish to temporarily delay your period.

There is no guaranteed way of doing this, but there are a number of methods that can usually help, depending on the type of contraception (if any) you are taking.

If you take a contraceptive pill

If you take a combined contraceptive pill, you can delay your period by taking two packets back to back. How you do this will depend on which pill you take. For example:

  • monophasic 21-day pill – you take a combined pill for 21 days, followed by seven days without pills, when you have a bleed. To delay your period, start a new packet of pills straight after you finish the last pill and miss out the seven-day break.  
  • everyday (ED) pill – you take a combined pill every day. The first 21 pills are active pills and the next seven pills are inactive or dummy pills, when you have your period. To delay your period, miss out and throw away the dummy pills, and start the active pills in a new packet straight away.
  • phasic 21-day pills – the mix of hormones in each pill is different depending on which phase you're in. You need to take these pills in the correct order to provide effective contraception. Ask your GP which ones you can miss out to delay your period.

Taking your contraceptive pills in these ways will not affect how they work as contraceptives.

If you’re not sure which pill you’re on or which pills in the packet to miss out, speak to your GP or pharmacist.

Avoid taking more than two packs without a break unless your GP says you can, as there is a risk you could experience side effects, such as unexpected vaginal bleeding (caused by the lining of your womb shedding slightly), bloating and stomach pains.

If you are taking a progestogen-only contraceptive pill, you can’t delay your period by taking two packets back to back. However, you may be able to switch to the combined contraceptive pill or take another medication to delay your period (see below).

If you don't take a contraceptive pill

See your GP for advice if you want to delay your period and you are not taking the combined contraceptive pill. They may be able to prescribe medication called norethisterone to delay your period. Your GP will advise you when to take norethisterone and for how long.

Usually, you will be prescribed three norethisterone tablets a day, starting three days before you expect your period to begin. Your period should arrive two to three days after you stop taking the medication.

However, it’s important to be aware that norethisterone does not act as a contraceptive when used in this way and it may not be suitable if you have a history of thrombosis (blood clots). It’s effectiveness at delaying periods also varies from woman to woman. Some women taking norethisterone have reported side effects such as bloating, breast tenderness, nausea, headache and disturbances in mood and sex drive.

Switching to the combined contraceptive pill

If you currently use another type of contraception, you may wish to start using the combined contraceptive pill. This will allow you to delay your period when you go on holiday.

However, you may need to start this pill several weeks before you plan to go on holiday, and it is not suitable for everyone. If you are switching to using the combined contraceptive pill from a different type of contraception, you might need to use additional contraception during the first few days of taking the combined contraceptive pill. Ask your GP for more information and advice.

Read the answers to more questions about women's health.

Further information:

Menstrual cycle: animation

This animation explains in detail how the menstrual cycle works.

Media last reviewed: 21/02/2013

Next review due: 21/02/2015

Page last reviewed: 20/03/2014

Next review due: 19/03/2016