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Editor's Note: We at POPSUGAR recognise that people of many genders and identities have menstrual cycles. This particular story includes language from experts who generally refer to people with menstrual cycles as women.
We've all had that moment when you realise your period is due at the same time as a big night out you've had planned for ages or during a holiday you've been saving for. And don't even get us started on the inconvenience of dealing with our monthly friend in the portaloos at festivals. Hello bloating, cramps, and bad moods, goodbye summer fun, right? Wrong.
If you're not on the contraceptive pill, you might think you've got no choice but to ride it out. Well, high street chemist Boots has the answer. It has introduced a period delay service, meaning you can feel in control of your body and postpone your period by up to 17 days.
Via the Boots Online Doctor, patients complete an online consultation, which is then reviewed by a clinician within 24 hours. They may message or call with follow-up questions and then prescribe medication, if appropriate, that can be picked up in store or delivered to your door.
"We know that having a period can be annoying for some if you've got something exciting coming up. We have made period delay tablets available through our Online Doctor Service, so people can conveniently access the treatment, if suitable, without needing to go to their GP," Bina Mehta, a pharmacist at Boots, tells POPSUGAR.
This service was officially launched last year "to offer fast access to advice and period delay treatment with no appointment needed and expert, confidential advice and treatment without the travel or waiting time." After a couple of years of limited summer plans, our 2022 social calendars are filling up nicely, so we needed to tell you about how the period tablet works, so you can decide if it will work for you.
How Do Period Delay Tablets Work?
Boots offers Utovlan, a branded form of Norethisterone, which contains a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone and prevents your womb lining from shredding causing a period. "Periods are triggered each month by a drop in progesterone levels; therefore, by keeping your progesterone level elevated, you can delay your period for up to 17 days through this treatment," Mehta tells us.
One tablet needs to be taken three times a day, starting three days before your period and continuing the course of tablets for up to 14 days afterwards.
Are Period Delay Tablets Safe?
Yes, they are safe. Medication to delay periods has been around for several years, but a lot of people don't know it's even available, let alone how to use it properly.
"The medication has a good safety profile when used correctly and as prescribed, but it is important to read the Patient Information Leaflet that comes with your medication to understand side effects and how to take the medicine," Mehta explains. "Treatment is not suitable for people on certain medicines or with certain medical conditions. You should not use this medicine if you're pregnant, could be pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or if you've given birth within the past six weeks. If you take this medicine while breastfeeding, there may be a temporary reduction in your milk."
What Are The Side Effects of Period Delay Tablets?
"As with any other medication, some people may experience side effects while others may not experience any at all," Mehta says. "Side effects can include spotting, irregular bleeding, sore breasts, a lower sex drive, and an upset stomach. The longer you take the tablets for, the more likely you'll experience side effects. If you have any concerns, speak to your pharmacist."
Similarly to the contraceptive pill, these tablets can increase the risk of blood clots, so it's important to consider if there is a history in your family as well.
How Often Can Period Delay Tablets Be Used?
This is not the fix if you want to regularly control your periods. "Period delay medication is designed for occasional use and is not intended for regular use or for an extended period of time", reveals Mehta.
Will The Next Period Be Heavier After Taking Period Delay Tablets?
There is no guarantee it will be heavier or any different to your usual periods as each person responds differently.
"If you start the course fewer than three days before your period is due, it might not work and you'll still have bleeding or spotting", says Mehta. "You will get your period around three days after you stop taking the medicine, but the severity and length of the period will vary with each person."
Can You Get Pregnant When Taking Period Delay Tablets?
These tablets are not a contraceptive, so there is still a risk you could get pregnant while taking them. "Patients will need to use barrier contraception, like condoms, if they don't have a long acting reversible contraceptive in place, like the coil or an implant," says Mehta. "Patients should not take period delay tablets if they are already using the combined pill. Standard combined pills can be taken back to back, missing the pill-free week, to skip a period."
If you are taking the progesterone-only pill (POP or the mini pill), you cannot delay your period by taking two packets back-to-back, so should keep taking it as a form of contraception.
How Much Do Period Delay Tablets Cost?
The cost of the service, including the consultation and medicine, with a prescription for 30 tablets is £18 and the cost of the service with a prescription for 60 tablets is £27. Norethisterone is a prescription-only medicine and patients can only access it subject to the consultation with a doctor.