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Mini Oral Contraceptive Pill

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Amish Patel - NowPatientGreen tick
Updated on 5 Jun 2024

The Mini Oral Contraceptive Pill or the minipill is a type of birth control pill containing the hormone progestogen only. It does not contain oestrogen. Here, we will take a closer look at this method of contraception, how it works, its side effects, who can use it and how.

How does the Minipill work?

The minipill works by making the mucus in the cervix thicker, making it more difficult for sperm to fertilise eggs. The minipill also causes thinning of the lining of the uterus walls, preventing fertilised eggs from implanting in the uterus wall. Some mini pills also suppress ovulation, preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg.

How effective is the Minipill?

If taken correctly the Minipill can be almost 100% effective. However, if a pill is missed or not taken at the same time each day, it will only be around 92% effective. The minipill must be taken consistently to ensure its maximum effectiveness.

How do I take the Minipill?

This will depend on the type of progestogen-only pill you are taking:

  • 3-hour pills such as Noriday: These are taken within 3 hours of the same time every day
  • The 12-hour pill, such as Cerazette (desogestrel): These are taken within 12 hours of the same time each day

The Minipill will start to work straight away, if you take it on the first day of your menstrual cycle, and you will not need to use another form of contraception. You will however, need to use extra precautions if you do not start taking the Minipill on the first day of your cycle.

Missed pills?

If you are taking the 3-hour pill and are still within the 3 hour window, take the missed pill as soon as possible and carry on taking your pills as normal. If you are over 12 hours late, take the missed pill as soon as possible and continue as normal, but use extra precautions for 2 days.

The same rules apply if you are taking the 12-hour pill, but you will need to adjust the time frame to within 12 hours.

Possible side effects of the Minipill

Side effects may vary from person to person, but common side effects of the minipill include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, dizziness
  • Tiredness, headaches
  • Diarrhoea
  • Breast tenderness
  • Irregular bleeding
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Lower sex drive
  • Thinning hair

Who can use the Minipill?

The minipill is a suitable for use if you:

  • Have health conditions preventing you from using contraceptives containing estrogen
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Are over 35 years of age
  • Smoke
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have a history of blood clots
  • Suffer from migraines

The minipill is however not suitable if you have, or have ever had:

  • Breast cancer
  • Liver disease
  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Are taking medications that interact with the Minipill

Frequently asked questions

What is the Mini Oral Contraceptive Pill?

The Mini-pill is a hormonal contraceptive containing progestin only, a man-made form of the hormone progesterone. The Mini-pill thickens the cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to reach the egg, and causes thinning of the lining of the uterus, making it more difficult for a fertilised egg to implant itself in the wall of the uterus.

What’s the difference between the Mini Pill and Combination Pills?

Combination pills contain progestin and estrogen, while the Mini Pill only contains progestin.

Will the Mini pill protect me from sexually transmitted diseases?

No. The Mini pill will not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You will need to use condoms to protect yourself. Speak to your GP or visit a sexual health clinic for further advice.

Does the Mini Pill cause weight gain?

There is no evidence that the Mini-pill causes weight gain. Changes in weight while using the Mini-pill, are often due to lifestyle, genetics, or changes in your hormone levels.

Can the Mini Pill affect fertility?

No. The mini-pill does not cause any long-term changes in fertility.

How does the Mini Pill affect sex drive?

The mini-pill does not affect sex drive significantly, but stress, or other medications can.

What do I do if I forget to take my Mini Pill?

If you forget to take your mini pill, take it as soon as possible. If you miss two or more pills, speak to your healthcare provider.

Use extra precautions for the next 48 hours, but if you have unprotected sex, speak to your healthcare provider do discuss which emergency contraception to use.

Can I skip my period while taking the Mini Pill?

Yes, you can. The mini-pill allows you to skip your period if you start a new pack right after finishing one.

Which is the right Mini Pill for me?

This will depend on your medical history, lifestyle, and personal preferences. Speak to your doctor to discuss your options.

What should I do if I get side effects with the Mini Pill?

Speak to your healthcare provider if you experience side effects. They will provide you with advice on how to manage your side effects, or offer you alternatives.

Conclusion

The minipill is highly effective when taken correctly, but must be taken consistently at the same time each day to maintain its effectiveness. Discuss your needs with your healthcare provider to decide which minipill is right for you.

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