- stopping the ovaries from producing an egg
- thickening the mucus in the cervix to stop sperm cells from reaching an egg
Together, these actions make pregnancy much less likely to happen.
You may know it as the mini pill or as the progesterone-only pill. Either way, it’s the safe option for oestrogen-sensitive women, and gives you just as much protection.
Talk to us about what type of pill you’re looking for. Get personalised recommendations and expert advice. Order your mini pill online and we’ll ship your medication from our pharmacy.
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Mini pills (or “progesterone-only birth control pills” if you’re into the lingo) are a little different to what you might know as “The Pill”. Generally “The Pill” refers to combined birth control pills that contain two hormones, progesterone and oestrogen. Progesterone-only tablets have just one hormone in them (a type of progesterone).
They’re more suitable than the conventional combined pill for some women, because they don’t contain oestrogen. But there’s virtually no difference in how effective they are as long as you take them correctly.
You’ll take the progesterone only pill without a break, every day of the month. Difference being that in combined pills, you’ll get 21 in a pack (or 21 with seven inactive pills), or occasionally 24 (or 24 + 4 inactive pills). With mini pills, you get 28 in a pack (and they’re all active).
The progesterone-only pill works by thickening the mucus in the cervix. Yep, we know. Mucus isn’t everyone’s favourite word. But what this does is make it harder for sperm to travel through, and to fertilise an egg.
There are different types of progesterone in mini pills, such as desogestrel and norethisterone, and the effects can be slightly different. As well as working some mucus magic, a desogestrel pill can stop ovulation too.
For the progesterone-only mini pill to work properly, it has to be taken at the same time every day. If you are late taking the pill, it counts as missing it. The missed pill window is shorter with some mini pills (3 hours) than it is with the combined pill (12 hours), so be sure to read the leaflet before you start.
One of the biggest advantages of the mini pill is that it is safer to use for some women than the combined pill, because it doesn’t contain any oestrogen. You’re more likely to take the mini pill if you get migraines, if you’re breastfeeding, or if you are at a higher risk of blood clots due to high blood pressure or being overweight.
The main disadvantage is that some progesterone pills have a shorter missed pill window at three hours (compared to 12 hours for most combined pills).
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Very effective, when it’s used correctly. There are two methods used to measure effectiveness: perfect use and typical use.
Perfect use is taking the mini pill exactly as stated in the instructions, without making any mistakes. Effectiveness associated with this method is over 99%, meaning that in 100 women taking the pill over a year, less than one will get pregnant.
Typical use is taking the pill correctly for the most part, but making occasional mistakes (missing a pill, or taking it late). Effectiveness for this method is thought to be around 91%, meaning that around nine in 100 women using the progestin only pill will get pregnant over one year.
If you’re not already taking the pill or using another form of hormonal contraception, you can start taking the progesterone-only pill at any point during your cycle. Or you can wait until you have your period.
When you’re ready to start using progesterone-only birth control, pick a convenient time to take it because you’ll have to take it at this time every day.
If you wait for your period, and you start taking the mini pill within the first five days of your period, you’ll be protected from becoming pregnant right away. So you don’t need to worry about using a diaphragm or condoms.
You might need to go with another method of birth control if you have a shorter period. Use condoms or the diaphragm or avoid sex until you’ve used the pill for two days.
You won’t be protected against pregnancy right away if you start taking it at any other point during your cycle. So if you’re not on your period and start taking the progesterone-only pill, make sure you use extra protection like a condom for the first seven days that you take it.
When you switch from the combined pill or another type of progesterone-only pill, you can take your first one the day after you finish the last pill in your previous pack.
If you’re changing from the skin patch or the vaginal ring, start on the day after your patch or ring is removed. If you do this, you won’t need to use extra protection.
The progestogen-only pill - Your contraception guide. NHS.
It depends on you. And your body. If you’re sensitive to a particular progesterone hormone for example, such as desogestrel, mini pills like the Noriday mini pill (which contains the hormone norethisterone) and Norgeston (which contains the hormone levonorgestrel) could be better options for you, as they may give you fewer side effects.
On the same basis, if you get side effects from these pills that persist and are uncomfortable, the likes of Cerazette and Zelleta may be more suitable, as they contain desogestrel.
Mini pills like Norgeston and Noriday only have a three hour window in which to remember to take them, so if you take these pills more than three hours later than normal, your protection against pregnancy will be lowered. Cerazette and the generic, Cerelle, offer more flexibility here. They carry a 12 hour missed pill window, so if you forget to take your pill on time, there’s a bigger margin for error.
To sum up then, it’s really a question of what your body responds well to, and what it doesn’t. And with the missed pill windows, it may just be a matter of what fits your lifestyle best. We can advise you on the right pills for you, based on your health background, and you can choose your mini pill from there.
Yes. A lot of the birth control options you know will probably be branded versions. You might know their names, their active ingredients and you might know what to expect when you start using them.
When there isn’t one, single brand of a particular medication, and there are several versions available, these are called generics.
There are several brands of progesterone-only pills available. Some might have different names, but they’re very similar pills with the same dose. For example, Cerazette and Cerelle are identical from a clinical point of view, but just come in different packaging because they’re made by different companies. But there shouldn’t be any difference in how well they work.
Progestin-Only (norethindrone) Oral Contraceptives: MedlinePlus Drug Information.
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