How can I delay my period?

There’s no guaranteed way to delay your period. However, if you use contraception, there are a number of methods that can help.

Combined 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. Examples are:

  • Monophasic 21-day pills – 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. However, this isn't always effective.
  • Everyday (ED) pills – 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 have effective contraception. Ask your GP which ones you can miss out to delay your period.

Taking your contraceptive pills in the ways described above won't 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's a risk you could experience side effects, such as:

  • unexpected vaginal bleeding – caused by the lining of your womb shedding slightly
  • bloating
  • stomach pains

Progestogen-only contraceptive pill

If you're 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're 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.

You'll usually be prescribed three norethisterone tablets a day, starting three to four 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 doesn't act as a contraceptive when used in this way, and it may not be suitable if you have a history of thrombosis (blood clots). How well it works in delaying periods also varies between women. Some women taking norethisterone have reported side effects, such as:

  • bloating
  • breast tenderness
  • nausea
  • headache
  • disturbances in mood and sex drive

Switching to the combined contraceptive pill

If you currently use another type of contraception, switching to the combined contraceptive pill will allow you to delay your period.

However, you may need to start this pill several weeks before the time when you want to delay your period, and it's not suitable for everyone. If you're switching to the combined contraceptive pill, you might need to use additional contraception during the first few days of taking it. Ask your GP for more information and advice.

Further information:

Menstrual cycle: animation

This animation explains in detail how the menstrual cycle works.

Media last reviewed: 21/02/2015

Next review due: 21/02/2017

Page last reviewed: 22/02/2016

Next review due: 22/02/2018