Contraceptive pills are of two types - the combined pill and the progestogen only pill (POP), also called the mini pill. They contain artificial forms of oestrogen and progesterone, which are natural hormones found in our bodies.
The mini pill is different from the combined pill because it contains only progestogen and has to be taken every day without breaks. Some popular brands of the mini pill include Cerazette and Noriday.
How does the mini pill work?
The progestogen in the mini pill works by preventing ovulation each month. It also thickens the mucus lining the cervix of your womb, making it difficult for sperm to swim through and fertilise your egg. The progestogen hormone thins the lining of your womb, so an egg will not be able to attach even if it gets fertilised.
How effective is the mini pill?
According to the NHS contraception guide, the mini pill is 99% effective if taken correctly by following the instructions on each pill pack. This means in one year, about 1 out of 100 women who use the mini pill will get pregnant.
Before you decide to use the mini pill, you should tell your GP about all medicines you currently use as there are certain medications that affect how well the mini pill works, for example some antibiotics, HIV and epilepsy medicines.
Who can and can’t take the mini pill?
The mini pill is beneficial for women who cannot take contraception containing oestrogen due to increased risk of heart disease. Women up to age 55 can use the mini pill including those who smoke, and it is also recommended for breastfeeding mothers.
While the mini pill is regularly used by many women, it is not recommended if you have ever had breast cancer, liver disease, unexplained bleeding between periods or heart disease.
Also, you should consider the side effects of the mini pill before using it as a contraceptive option. Some common side effects reported by women on the mini pill are mood swings, acne, breakthrough bleeding, headaches and vomiting.
How is the mini pill taken?
The mini pill is taken every day without breaks. When you finish a pack, you should start the new one the next day. Depending on the type of mini pill you get, you will either need to take the pill:
- Within 3 hours of the same day or
- Within 12 hours of the same day
Each pill pack will come with specific instructions on how to take them. You can usually start taking the mini pill straight away but the best time to start is on the first day of your period. This is because you will be protected immediately without the need for additional contraception such as condoms, although condoms can also be used to prevent STIs.
If you do start the mini pill outside days 1 to 5 of your monthly period, you should also use another form of contraception for at least the first 2 days to prevent you from getting pregnant. If you are ever unsure or have questions about choosing the right contraceptive pill for you, always check with your GP first.