You’ve booked your summer break but it coincides with your period. Do you brace yourself for sunbathing with a bloated tum in your brand new bikini? Or would you take a pill to delay your period for a week?
More and more women are choosing to delay periods when it is due at an inconvenient time. Some choose a prescribed drug called northisterone while others choose to take their pill back-to-back.
But what are the consequences of doing this? We spoke to Pink’s resident doctor, Dr Yasmin Walters, to find out everything you NTK...
What is northisterone?
Northisterone works by mimicking a hormone that keeps the lining of your womb thick. Dr Walters explains, “When you have a period, the hormone drops and the womb lining sheds. This is your period. By sustaining a high level of the hormone you prevent the period from occurring. Your period will be prevented for as long as you keep taking the full dose. However, doctors will only prescribe a course to postpone your period by up to 17 days.”
Is northisterone safe?
Dr Walters says, “Northisterone is a very effective way of delaying your period if you have an event you would rather not coincide with it.”
The key point? It’s NOT a contraceptive. It works in a similar way to the pill, but that’s not what it’s licensed for and needs to be accompanied with another form of contraception.
It's not suitable for everyone. You should see your GP or pharmacist before taking it; they will go through some questions to see if you can safely take the drug. The vast majority of people take it without problems and successfully prevent their period.
It should not be taken if you’re on the combined contraceptive (i.e. you take the pill for 21 days then have a 7-day break). However, you’re perfectly safe to take northisterone if you’re on the mini pill (i.e. you take the pill every day without a break).
What should I be aware of when taking northisterone?
"You will have to take tablets two or three times a day, which can be a bit of a bother for some people," says Dr Walters, "You also still need to use contraception (i.e. condoms) whilst taking it, as it does not protect you from pregnancy. Falling pregnant whilst taking northisterone can affect a developing baby (another reason to use condoms)."
Common side effects include:
- spotting or breakthrough bleeding (bleeding between periods)
If these become troublesome speak to your doctor. Whilst spotting is listed as a possible side effect, the majority of people find their period is completely prevented. The only alternative currently licensed and available in the UK is to take the combined contraceptive pill back-to-back.
Is it safe to take my pill back-to-back?
Dr Walters says, “Advice varies, but NHS choices says you can take up to three packets of the pill back-to-back. But you should speak to the GP first just in case. The doctor may have advice specific to the type of pill you’re on. Always take your medications as directed by the medical professional who prescribed them, as doing otherwise risks side effects or reduced efficacy (which, in this case, could lead to pregnancy).”
What should I be aware of when taking my pill back-to-back?
As well as delaying a period, taking the pill back-to-back comes with the risk of a few side effects (as does everything). This includes:
- breakthrough bleeding (i.e. bleeding or spotting when your period isn’t due)
- stomach pains
- some women find their period is heavier once they do take their pill-free week
These are quite uncommon, and most women happily skip their pill-free week to avoid periods without any trouble.