The progestogen-only pill, better known as the progesterone only pill, mini pill or POP, is a form of contraceptive pill which contains synthetic progestogen, similar to progesterone naturally produced by the female body. It is often used by women who are unable to use combined contraception which contains oestrogen, such as if you are breastfeeding or have a history of migraines.
Designed to be taken at the same time every day, the mini pill is one of the more popular contraceptives with common brands including Cerelle, Cerazette, Norgeston and Noriday. With so many different types to choose from, it begs the questions – what are the difference between the progestogen-only pill brands? We’ve looked at some of these below…
Progestogen-only pill brand names
There are essentially 2 groups of mini pill (POP):
- Desogestrel POP – must be taken within 12 hours of the same time each day
- Traditional POP – must be taken within 3 hours of the same time each day.
The traditional POP prevents pregnancy by thickening the mucus in the cervix to stop sperm reaching an egg. The desogestrel POP can also stop ovulation. If taken correctly, it’s more than 99% effective. This means fewer than 1 woman in 100 who uses the mini pill as contraception will get pregnant in 1 year. With “typical use” (the way it’s taken by a lot of women in real life), it’s only about 92% effective.
Progestogen side effects can include:
- breast tenderness and breast enlargement
- an increased or decreased sex drive
- mood changes
- headache and migraine
- nausea or vomiting
- small fluid-filled sacs (cysts) on your ovaries – these are usually harmless and disappear without treatment
These side effects will most likely appear in the first few months of taking the progestogen-only pill. You should contact your GP if they persist or are problematic.
You may also not have regular periods while taking it – your periods may be lighter, more frequent, or may stop altogether, and you may get spotting between periods.
Progestogen only pill brands containing desogestrel 75 micrograms (which therefore all have 12 hour window):
Desogestrel is the synthetic progestogen used in the generic mini pill sold under varying brand names as below.
All the following pills have the same hormone type and quantity. The differences in women’s experiences using the same brand can be vast and doctors are unsure why individual women may be experience slight differences between brands. We’ve got together some of our reviewers’ comments and looked at the data we’ve collected so far at The Lowdown…
Cerelle is one brand of mini pill that contains desogestrel. Some of our reviewers have experienced headaches and acne whilst using cerelle. For over 50% of women it stopped their period altogether.
One reviewer shared:
“I’ve been on the pill for 3 and half years. It’s stopped my periods, helped my skin and prevented pregnancy. But it has made me gain weight, made me have really bad mood swings, and fatigue. I’m coming off the pill to let my body get back to normal.”
Similar to Cerelle, Cerazette is a form of mini pill where the main ingredient is desogestrel. Over 50% of our reviewers experienced tender breasts and a reduction in their sex drive.
“I’ve been taking Cerazette for just over a year, when I started taking it I bled for a good few weeks and I felt nauseous for a few weeks too – but after a while I felt fine. This year I’ve only had two periods (one in March and one in July), I’ve also had a few days of spotting in-between. I’ve gained some weight this year but I’m putting it down to lack of exercise and bad diet, but when I have eaten better and exercised I have been able to see the weight shift. My sex drive is quite high anyway, and it hasn’t been affected in any way. Compared to my previous pill Loestrin, I had no migraines with auras, my anxiety decreased dramatically and my skin cleared up.”
Another reviewer said:
“It started off well but after 6/7 months, I had sudden very very heavy bleeding – so heavy that I soaked 4 night time super pads over night. It also made me feel more depressed and I lost my sex drive. It’s a shame as initially other than a little breakthrough bleeding it wasn’t terrible.”
The Zelleta pill also contains desogestrel. Like other progestogen-only pills it is suitable for women who are breastfeeding and may help with pre-menstrual pain or period cramps.
Some of our reviewers reported irregular periods or a change to their mood as a Zelleta side effect.
“I feel depressed, extremely emotional, no motivation. I have tried different contraceptions, from the implant to different pills. I hate going on contraception as it changes my personality and affects my everyday life. I just want to stay in bed everyday. My period has been so heavy. I cry everyday. I have even called in sick to work.”
Traditional progesterone only pill brands which don’t contain desogestrel but another synthetic progestogen (which each have a 3-hour window):
Norgeston contains levonorgestrel, a synthetic form of progesterone. Like other mini pills, Norgeston is taken back to back without a break, and most importantly it needs to be taken every day at the same time (within a three hour window).
Most of our community reported neutral responses when asked about change to moods and body weight, however lots of women experienced irregular periods.
Noriday contains norethisterone, a synthetic form of progesterone. Another brand containing norethisterone is Micronor. These also have to be taken within a 3 hour window every day.
Our users’ reviews report possible side effects including vaginal discharge, spots and tender breasts.
“Had to stop combined pill due to raised blood pressure. Started on cerazette but too much intermittent bleeding. This has stopped that, but as each month goes by I feel more pms (particularly bloating/ swollen breasts & low mood) than I ever had on previous hormonal pills.“
For more information, side effects and advantages/disadvantages of other progestogen-only pills including Aizea, Desomono, Desorex, Micronor and Nacrez then check out their pages here on The Lowdown where our community reviewers will give you the ins and outs of their own experiences.
You can also read more about combined contraception pills in our guide to the different types of the combined pill.
Published 01/09/20. Reviewed and edited 29/12/20.