The progestogen-only pill, or the 'mini pill', is a tablet containing the hormone progestogen, which women can take to prevent pregnancy. This pill is taken every day without any breaks.
It is also known as the progestogen-only pill or POP.
How does it work?
The progestogen-only pill works in several ways to prevent a woman from getting pregnant:
- it thickens cervical mucous at the neck of the womb (uterus) to prevent sperm from being able to reach an egg
- it thins the lining of the womb so that if an egg was fertilised it would not be able to implant
- for some women it may stop eggs from being released (ovulation). This varies depending which pill you use, with older pills stopping the release of an egg 40-60% of the time and newer pills 96% of the time.
How effective is it?
When the pill is taken correctly, which means taking it according to instructions and not taking pills late or missing any, the pill is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.
Advantages of the mini pill:
- being on the pill does not interrupt sex
- periods are lighter or stop completely, with less pain and premenstrual symptoms
- it is often suitable for women who can’t take the combined pill
Disadvantages of the mini pill:
When you start taking the pill you may experience some temporary side effects, such as breast tenderness, spotty skin, headaches and mood changes.
Also, you may not have regular bleeds (periods) or may even stop having periods whilst taking this pill, which some women find annoying or worrying.
You need to be able to take the pill at the same time every day for it to work properly. If you know this will be difficult to remember then another form of contraception is probably better for you. The older pills require you to take it within 3 hours of your regular time or it will stop working, whereas the newer pill allows you 12 hours.
Things to bear in mind:
The pill is not suitable for everyone, and it is important that the doctor prescribing it to you is aware of your and your family's medical history, as well as any other medication you are taking.
Other medicines, such as antibiotics and anti epileptic medicines can make your pill less effective, as can diarrhoea and/or vomiting. If this happens, an additional method of contraception (eg, condoms) should be used. Seek the advice of your doctor or nurse as you may need emergency contraception.
Most importantly, the progestogen-only pill does not provide any protection against HIV or other sexually transmitted infections like a condom does.
Where can I get it from and how much does it cost?
The progestogen-only pill is available free on the NHS. You can only get it on prescription. This can be from your GP, a practice nurse or a sexual health or young person's clinic.