Norethisterone Saved Me, Period

27 Jun 2018


Alright, let's talk something all women experience monthly. Aunt flow is probably every woman's favourite aunt who comes bearing a monthly gift to confirm whether or not we are safe for another month to come. The relationship, however, is a complex one. We resent the times when she's around but stress over it when she doesn't pay us a visit. One common worry I believe most women share is the thought of us getting pregnant. Of course, it's an exciting possibility if you are actually waiting to be a mother. But to those who don't? It's a living nightmare. 

In March, I found myself freaking out about the possibility of pregnancy. I panicked, lashed out on possibly everyone and googled my worries through. Bad idea, I know. Still, to my defense, the missing visit from aunt flow was something I could not put my mind to ease. They said it was stress and I was going to get it some time soon.

Weeks passed and still no sign of aunt flow making an appearance. At this moment I was so determined to try all sorts of herbal remedies to lure her out. I even bought ten home pregnancy tests (which I’ll abbreviate as HPV from here on) and they all came out negative. I’m not sure why I bought boxes and boxes of HPV to begin with. I guess ‘fooling around fully clothed’ kind of freaked me out. After wasting my money on HPV and allowing anxiety got to me like bugs crawling in my bloodstream, I then insisted to my mother that I needed to see an ob-gyn. At first she just pushed my worries away (that’s typical of her to shove away signs and symptoms while waiting for the abnormality or illness to get worse) but I told her I wasn’t feeling so good. My stomach was bloated and I could feel the “dirty blood that was supposed to leave my system a month ago” inside me. That’s gross, I know.

Fast forward to my meeting with the ob-gyn, I lied down for an ultrasound test. If I remember correctly, the ultrasound was meant to check on my endometrium lining and how thick it has become. Imagine my sigh of relief when I realized that those HPV results were indeed accurate and that I was not, am not preggers. In return, my ob-gyn prescribed me a norethisterone drug under the commercial name Primolut N. Norethisterone, otherwise known as norethindrone, is a progestin medication used in birth control pills, hormone therapy and treatment for gynecological disorders. In my case, it was used to treat hormonal imbalance caused by….can you guess? The excessive amount of sugar intake I had during that month. Yes, sugar was the culprit behind my one-month missing period. All the high sugary food I craved when I was stressed from work and life! All those Starbucks I drank, the milk tea I bought every weekend, the ice cream I had — I couldn’t believe that this article actually proved itself true. I was told by my ob-gyn that unlike medicines meant for hormone replacement therapy, norethisterone does not take over my hormones and will only balance things out. The latter is usually recommended by most doctors; if it doesn't work, a hormone replacement therapy medicine is usually prescribed next.

I was prescribed 10 pills for a consecutive of 5 days, taken twice per day in the morning and night. My ob-gyn told me that the timing must be the same each day but I noticed that even when I didn’t take it on the same time every day, it still worked perfectly. Still, I’d definitely recommend taking them at the right time. Once the drug is stopped, it takes around one week for period to begin.

cr @ pansy.co by carissa gallo
On the forth day after I finished all my doses, aunt flow hit me like a tsunami on steroid. I was literally a Bloody Mary, so to speak. It was a mixture of both relief and exhaustion. The flow that came out was enough to make me feel nothing but extreme fatigue. The first day was probably the worst one because I had to change my pads every 2-3 hours or else I would have leaked. In fact, I was using a 35 cm wide sanitary pad when the leak happened while I was asleep. On the second day, the feeling kind of subsided although I still felt weak, exhausted and just overall sleepy. Since my period usually lasts for 6 days, the flow was reduced around day 4 or 5.

While it's true that norethisterone helped my period flow, I noticed one or two side effects following the treatment. First was the dizziness that came as soon as I took the medicine. It usually subsided on its own, however, there were days when I had to take painkiller to ease the pain. Don't let it scare you though. It's not an excruciating pain by any means but I just had to take painkiller for a fast relief so I could concentrate on my work. The second side effect was the increase in appetite. Since norethisterone is a hormone pill, its side effect includes bigger appetite and possible change of weight. I can assure you that I felt an increase in my appetite it's crazy! I was freaking out when I gained 1-2 kg soon after! And now I find it difficult to lose 2 lbs, ugh.

Aside from the dizziness and increase appetite, there were also other side effects such as feeling dazed and slightly confused or sleepiness. They're usually faint and vanish the moment the dizziness fades so I don't really mind. In some people, an increase in blood sugar is also a possible side effect which is why before having prescribed norethisterone, it's best to tell the ob-gyn if you are diabetic.

cr @ pansy.co by carissa gallo

Another advice I'd like to share is that if you have an irregular period, especially one that's caused by poor diet, there are a few food to avoid: junk and deep fried food, high sugar and soy products. This doesn't mean you cannot eat them forever; it just means while you're experiencing the irregularity, you have to avoid them at all cost. I'm not gonna lie, I do cheat once in a while (because cravings and stress are siblings, okay!) but I try to minimize them as much as possible. I personally don't drink soda or alcohol so all I have to avoid are drinks like milk tea and lattes. 

Now that I've shared my first pregnancy scare experience, I'd advise you to maybe pick up at least three HPV from three different brands and take the test at least one day after your expected period (use a period tracker app! I recommend Flo or Clue) chances are, the result you got is 90-99% accurate. If you're still doubtful, repeat the test one week after. Another sign that you're safe from unwanted fetus growing in your womb is if you haven't experienced any symptom at all 4-5 weeks after having an intercourse (this is, if you did have sex that involves penetration and such; if not then, cross this out) If you do not experience any symptom, don't freak out like I did and began googling for answers because while it's possible, it's an extremely rare case for a pregnant lady to not experience any symptom at all. 

In the end, missing your period for a month (or worse, months) is not something you should ignore. Even if you're told to wait, don't wait at all! The longer you wait, the more uneasy you're going to feel, both physically and mentally. Similarly, I'm assuming that the longer the wait, the thicker the endometrium is going to be and the longer you have to take the hormone therapy pills. This then leads to a longer experience of unwanted side effects and increase appetite level. With that said, let's talk more about the difficulty of understanding female hormones and period cycle and stop being embarrassed about it. Our reproductive system is, after all, a complicated one.

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