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The Progesterone only pill

Progesterone Pill

The progesterone only pill also known as the ‘mini pill’ or ‘POP’ contains the hormone progestogen only.  It is taken around the same time every day.

The progestogen-only pill thickens the mucus in the cervix, which stops sperm reaching an egg. In can also stop ovulation, depending on the type of progestogen-only pill you take. 

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Key Facts

  • It is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy is taken correctly
  • It is taken every day with no breaks between packs
  • You can take this method of contraception is you’re over 35 and smoke
  • It doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) so you will need to use condoms as well
  • Some medicines may affect its effectiveness – always ask your doctor or nurse for more information

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Who can use the progesterone only pill?

Most women can take the progesterone only pill. However, you may not be able to take it if you’ve had:

  • heart disease  
  • liver disease  
  • breast cancer  
  • cysts on your ovaries 
  • unexplained vaginal bleeding

If you're healthy and there are no medical reasons why you should not take the progestogen-only pill, you can take it until your menopause or until you are 55.

If you are breastfeeding it is safe to use and does not affect the way your breast milk is produced.

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After having a baby

You can start the progesterone only pill at any time after the birth. If you start after day 21 you will need to use condoms for two days.

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After a miscarriage or abortion

You can start the Progesterone only pill straight away and you will be protected from pregnancy immediately.  If you start it more than five days after a miscarriage or abortion you will need to use condoms for two days to protect you from becoming pregnant. 

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Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages

  • It can be taken by women who are unable to take methods of contraception that contain oestrogen.
  • It doesn’t interrupt sex
  • You can use it at any age
  • You can use it while breastfeeding

Disadvantages

  • You need to remember to take it around the same time every day
  • Some medications can make it less effective
  • You may get some side effects such as spots, breast tenderness and mood swings
  • Your periods may become irregular

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If you miss a pill

If you are more than three or 12 hours late if you are taking POPs containing the hormone desogestrel:

  • Take a pill as soon as you remember. If you have missed more than one, only take one
  • Take your next pill at the usual time. This may mean taking two pills in one day. This is not harmful
  • You are not protected against pregnancy. Continue to take your pills as usual, but use an additional method of contraception, such as condoms, for the next two days.

If you are less than three or 12 hours late if you are taking POPs containing the hormone desogestrel:

  • Take a pill as soon as you remember, and take the next one at the usual time, even if this means taking two pills in the same day. You are protected from pregnancy.

Free and confidential advice and support

Contact a sexual health adviser


The Passionate about Sexual Health (PaSH) Partnership) is a collaboration between BHA for Equality, George House Trust and the LGBT Foundation. The PaSH Partnership will deliver a comprehensive programme of interventions to meet the changing needs of people newly diagnosed with HIV, living longer term with HIV or at greatest risk of acquiring HIV.

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