Taking pills to delay periods? Watch out

They say the risk is so high that there is a possibility of being infertile in future

Are you among women who take some pills to delay your menstrual periods for whatever reason? Then, you should watch out as doctors have now warned against this interference with a natural process.

Most of these drugs are sold to any walk-in client in most pharmacies in the country. Women are now buying an over-the-counter pill on the streets to delay their periods.
The Sh20 drugs are in tablet form, mostly a 5mg one. They are taken three times a day, three days before one’s period.

While some women seek to delay their periods for events such as a wedding when they feel it can be an inconvenience, there are dangers to this, doctors now say.
Experts and pharmacists who spoke to HealthyNation on the matter have now warned on the long-term effect.

Dr John Ong’ech, Dr Paul Mitei and Dr Aggrey Akula, warned that longer usage of the medicine could have longer side effects in the future.

“Through periods the body removes whatever is unwanted from the system and when we keep this in our system, it means there is no ovulation taking place and this can set one up for hormonal symptoms and other problems,” said Dr Akula, a western Kenya gynecologist and obstetrician.

He said inasmuch as women want to use the drugs, they should not be overused since they can interfere with one’s fertility. “If possible, use once in four months and not monthly, if used regularly, they can interfere with the fertility,” he said.

Dr Ong’ech, a leading gynaecologist and obstetrician at Kenyatta National Hospital, said when an egg is released from an ovary, there is production of progesterone. The increase of progesterone in one’s body encourages a build-up and eventual release of the lining of your uterus, which is the period.

The drugs help in delaying periods because of the progesterone hormone they contain. “These drugs will help in keeping the progesterone hormone level up. This keeps the uterus from shedding off it is lining,” Dr Ong’ech.

He said the mini pills are safe when taken once and recommends that women should get advice from doctors who will examine their health condition, medical history and advise on the best way. “Not ovulating is not just a problem for the system alone, but also the whole body. The drugs have serious side effects especially when they are taken for long,” he said.

Apart from interfering with one’s fertility, heavy bleeding and serious cramps, other effects according to Dr Mitei include discomfort in the breasts, rashes and itching and disturbances in the liver function.

“For young women and teenagers using these drugs, it is not advisable since the effects can be dire in the future,” he said.

A pharmacist who sought anonymity told HealthyNation purchase of the drugs was high. “In a day, I can attend to about three women asking for the drug,” he said.

However, he said, he was not aware of any side effects of the drug. “When they come, I sell to them and let them make their decision,” he said.

According to Prof Peter Mbwiiri, deputy director, Directorate of Product Evaluation and Registration at Pharmacy and Poisons Board, some of the drugs approved for the delay of periods include Primolut N, Steron tablets and Dub Steron. However, doctors were not allowed to prescribe off-label (in a manner not specified in the packaging), he said.

“Doctors may prescribe off label use of oral contraceptives for delay of menstruation. This kind of prescription is not approved by the board or any regulatory authority. The doctors would take responsibility for such,” says Prof Mbwiiri.

He said in the case of long term use, the drugs can cause venous thromboembolic events which is the clotting of blood in veins. This is fatal.

“Other indicators include prolonged and excessive vaginal bleeding (premenstrual syndrome) and excessive pelvic pain during menstruation,” he said.

He also said that the medicine which women are abusing is used for the treatment of endometriosis a condition that leads to infertility.

Dr Sylvia Opanga, a clinical pharmacist who lectures at University of Nairobi said most of the drugs women used were in the form of contraceptives with Primolut N being the most abused. “The abused drug is normally used to prevent heavy bleeding during surgery,” she said.

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