What is Norethisterone?

Imagine you’ve just bought the perfect holiday package; a five-star hotel in a luxury resort, beaches with blue seas stretching as far as the eye can see, restaurants serving delicious food and plenty of exciting landmarks to visit.  After months enduring an arduous routine of work/study, the time finally arrives to pack your bags and jet off for a well-earned summer break. However, when you arrive at the dream destination, cramps start to kick in and you realise that it’s that time of the month

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Commonly known by its brand name ‘Utovlan’, or alternatively by the name ‘norethindrone’, norethisterone was synthesised for the first time in 1951 in an effort to treat problems such as recurrent miscarriage and menstrual disorders. Norethisterone belongs to a class of medicines known as progestogens. Progestogens are synthetic drugs (meaning they are man-made) and they mimic the effects of the hormone progesterone. It is worth knowing the effects of progesterone on the menstrual cycle so that the benefits of using norethisterone can be more clearly understood.

Progesterone is a naturally occurring sex hormone in females, and levels of this hormone fluctuate throughout the month. A drop in progesterone levels towards the end of the menstrual cycle contributes to the breakdown of the lining of the womb, and eventual bleeding providing pregnancy has not occurred. When norethisterone is taken, constant progestogen levels are sustained in the blood, stopping the breakdown of womb lining and subsequently preventing bleeding.

Due to the advantageous effects that can result from being able to mimic naturally occurring progesterone, norethisterone is used to treat a range of menstrual disorders as well as being Women's Health Medicinesdelaying periods. Such disorders include irregular periods, heavy periods, painful periods and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Studies carried out on 26 patients, each of whom were suffering from heavy blood loss during periods, resulted in 83% of them reporting satisfactory control of menstrual blood loss after using norethisterone.

Higher doses have even been used to treat some female cancers, such as breast cancer. Norethisterone is Prescription Only Medicine (POM), so a valid prescription must be processed and checked by our doctor and pharmacist here at Assured Pharmacy before the medicine can be obtained.

Although combined oral contraceptive pills  (known more commonly as simply ‘the pill’) are an alternative way of delaying periods, they require a longer-term commitment and would need to be started weeks in advance of your holiday. Norethisterone, on the other hand, only needs to be taken 3-4 days before your period is due in order to be effective, making it a highly convenient medicine. One 5mg tablet needs to be swallowed three times a day, ideally alongside a glass of water.

These white, circular tablets can be taken with or without food, although establishing a routine of taking one tablet with breakfast, one with lunch and one with an evening meal are advisable as it would ensure that doses are spread evenly throughout the day. Treatment can be continued for up to two weeks, making norethisterone an ideal option for delaying a period whilst on holiday. Packs contain 30 tablets, so one pack should be sufficient to last for 10 days.

A period should occur 2-3 days after stopping the medicine, and the menstrual cycle should resume as normal from then onwards. Studies measuring a series of 181 cycles after taking norethisterone demonstrated that menstruation occurred within 2-3 days of stopping the medicine in 82% of Woman Listeningpatients, showing that the drug is reliable and that it isn’t disruptive to the menstrual cycle long-term.





Norethisterone can be used to delay your period for between 7 and 27 days.

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What is it?

Norethisterone contains a hormone similar to the hormone progesterone which occurs naturally in the body and is also used in a number of contraceptive pills.  It works by mimicking your body’s natural hormones and once it is taken regularly for 2-3 days will cause a sufficient increase in your body’s hormone levels to delay the arrival of your period.

How do I take it?

In order to delay a period, you take one Norethisterone tablet three times a day (every 8 hours) starting 3 days before the expected date of your period.  You can use the tablets to delay your period for up to 20 days if necessary and your period will resume 2-3 days after stopping the tablets. If you do not take Norethisterone 3 days before your period is due then it may not work effectively to fully stop your period. This will not cause you any harm and may make your period lighter but it is less likely to stop your period altogether.

Norethisterone may not work for everybody and it is important to be aware not to take it if you are going on a long haul flight of more than four hours due to a small increased risk of a clot (similar risk as the contraceptive pill).

If you forget to take the tablets do NOT take a double dose to make up for the forgotten tablet. You must take no more than 15mg (three tablets) per day.


Although it alters hormone levels, Norethisterone CANNOT be used as a method of contraception and will not provide protection against pregnancy. You must not take Norethisterone if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or likely to become pregnant.

If you are already using a hormonal method of contraception such as the contraceptive pill, implant or IUD, then Norethisterone is not suitable for you. If you are taking the combined contraceptive pill, running two packs of pills together without taking a break will delay your period.

If you do not have a period after stopping the tablets you must make sure you are not pregnant before taking more.


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It is important to bear in mind that this drug is not a form of contraception and can only be taken by women who aren’t already taking the pill. This means that additional forms of contraception, such as condoms, should be used to minimise the risk of pregnancy. This is made even more important by the fact that norethisterone is not licensed for use during pregnancy, as it can cause birth defects in babies.  Norethisterone can also change the composition of breast milk, so use should be avoided during breastfeeding.

Often, it can be disheartening to read about the beneficial effects of a treatment and then find out that you have a health condition that prevents you from being able to take it. The good news is that norethisterone can often still be used in individuals with conditions such as high blood pressure and asthma, although caution is advised. It is important that you inform our doctor or pharmacist of any other medications being taken so that the dose of norethisterone can be tailored accordingly if required.

Furthermore, another benefit of using norethisterone is that side effects are rare. Dizziness, breast tenderness and drowsiness are examples of some side effects that may occur when taking the drug, but because the drug is only taken for a short period of time at a low dose, such effects are unlikely to occur or be very mild in nature. Even if side effects do occur, they are likely to disappear as the body adapts to the effects of the progestogen.

no-alcoholSome medications, such as antibiotics, carry risks when alcohol is consumed around the same time as they are taken. Fear not, as there is no apparent risk of consuming alcohol when taking norethisterone, so you can still enjoy a cheeky cocktail or two by the beach.

Norethisterone is not recommended for long plane journeys of over 4 hours due to the risk of blood clots forming. Additionally, it is important that regular breaks are taken if you are planning on driving long distances so that you don’t remain immobile for long periods of time, which in turn will minimise the risk of blood clots forming.

If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of taking norethisterone for your journey, please get in touch one of our healthcare team, whose details can be found at the end of this article.

Sometimes it can be difficult to remember to take tablets, especially during a busy holiday. If you do happen to forget to take a dose, then just take a tablet as soon as you remember. If you only remember the forgotten dose as it approaches the time to take the next dose, simply skip the missed dose, and take the next tablet as normal. It is important not to take two doses to make up for a missed dose, as this could lead to potentially dangerous adverse effects.

As well as reducing inconvenience and period pains during holidays, delaying periods could also be Norethisterone 5mgextremely beneficial before a sporting event or before big occasions, such as a wedding. Norethisterone is a safe and effective way of delaying a period, as well as being convenient and easy to take. Furthermore, it can easily be purchased online from Assured Pharmacy and has been rated as ‘excellent’ by users who have purchased the product.

Please speak to our pharmacist or doctor by calling 01625460621 or e-mailing [email protected] if you would like to find out more information or speak to someone in confidence.


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  1. http://patient.info/health/delaying-a-period
  2. http://patient.info/medicine/norethisterone-for-painful-or-heavy-periods-primolut-n-utovlan
  3. http://xpil.medicines.org.uk/ViewPil.aspx?DocID=23891
  4. http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/1/7/455.short
  5. http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/medicines/a8713/primolut-n-norethisterone/
  6. http://www.healthcentre.org.uk/pharmacy/norethisterone-effects-on-pregnancy.html
  7. http://everything.explained.today/Norethisterone/
  8. http://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/2/5207/1187.full.pdf


Assured Pharmacy is not liable for the currency or accuracy of the information contained in this blog post. For specific information about your personal medical condition, please contact our doctors or pharmacists for advice on [email protected].

4 thoughts on “What is Norethisterone?

  1. Can you take this whilst taking Amoxicillin 500mg and Omeprazole 20mg?

    1. Hi Kirsty,
      There are no known interactions with Norethisterone when taken with either Amoxycillin or Omeprazole.
      Thanks for your query.
      Cathy Young (Pharmacist)
      Assured Pharmacy

  2. I took 1

    Norethisterone Tablet but i have contact lenses and its effecting my eye sight , how long till it’s out of my system

    1. The half life of elimination varies from 5 to 12 hours, with a mean of 7.6 hours. Norethisterone is metabolised mainly in the liver. Approximately 60% of the administered dose is excreted as metabolites in urine and faeces.
      After 24 hours plasma levels are generally about 1% of peak concentration.

      I would advise that your system will be completely clear of Norethisterone after 48 hours.

      Best Wishes

      Angela Lillie
      Assured Pharmacy
      01625 460 621

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