The progestogen only pill (aka progesterone only pill, POP or mini pill) is a small tablet you swallow daily that (unlike the combined pill) only contains one hormone – progestogen. It prevents pregnancy by making the fluid in your cervix thicker (which makes it more difficult for sperm to enter the womb), and preventing the lining of your womb thickening enough for a fertilised egg to implant in it. The progestogen only pills with desogestrel in them can also stop ovulation.
How to get started with the progesterone only pill
Your doctor or nurse will do some tests to make sure that you can take the mini pill. They check your medical history and make sure that you’re not pregnant .
Most women can start the mini pill at any time in their period cycle. If you start the pill in the first 5 days of your cycle you will be protected against pregnancy straight away (if you have a short menstrual cycle speak with your doctor or nurse). If you start the mini pill at any other time in your cycle you need to use condoms or another contraception method for the first two days of pill taking.
You can start the mini pill immediately after birth or a miscarriage or abortion. It is safe to use whilst breastfeeding.
There are normally 28 pills in a pack. The packs should be take back to back with no breaks in between.
It’s really important you reliably take the progestogen pill at the same time every day (even more important than with the combined pill).
There are two different types of progestogen only pill:
3 hour traditional progestogen-only pills must be taken within 3 hours of the same time every day
12 hour desogestrel progestogen-only pills must be taken within 12 hours of the same time every day.
If it helps, keep your pill packet somewhere you use or look at everyday (like your makeup bag) to remind you to take it, or set an alarm on your phone.
You will normally be given a prescription for the pill for three months initially with longer prescriptions thereafter.
Coming off the mini pill
Coming off the pill is easy – you just stop taking it. As soon as you stop taking it, you’re no longer protected from pregnancy.
If you do not wish to become pregnant you should use condoms or avoid sex for 7 days before stopping. Alternatively talk to you doctor or nurse about switching methods before you stop taking your pill.
Check out our mini pill reviews below to see how long it took most women’s cycles to return to their definition of ‘normal’, and read up about after side effects they’ve experienced.
Things that can go wrong
Missing or forgetting to take a pill has happened to all of us. Check out the NHS guide on what to do, depending on how many you’ve missed and where you are in your cycle. If you’re in any doubt, get advice form your doctor or nurse and make sure you use a condom or avoid sex until then.
There are a few things that can stop the pill from working properly – make sure you watch out for these and check your pill information leaflet or speak to your doctor if you have any questions:
Vomiting and diarrhoea will impact on how the pill is absorbed into your body. If you’re sick within two hours of taking the pill you’ll need to take another pill straight away and the next pill at the usual time. If you’re sick or have severe diarrhoea for longer than this, check your pill packet for what to do next – and use condoms or avoid sex if you have any doubts.
Some medicines and antibiotics (like rifampicin and rifabutin, St John’s wort and anti-epilepsy drugs) can make the pill less effective. If you start any new medicines speak to your doctor about whether this will affect the mini pill.
Some mini pill users may develop fluid filled cysts on their ovaries. These aren’t dangerous and usually disappear without treatment.
In the rare case the you do become pregnant there’s a risk of ectopic pregnancy (where the pregnancy develops outside your womb).
Read our mini pill side effects and reviews below.