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Progestogen Only Pill: The Mini Pill

The progestogen-only pill, sometimes called ‘the ‘mini-pill’ or the POP prevents pregnancy by using the hormone, progestogen.

Quick guide


Contains progestogen


Can help with feeling low or anxious


No protection against STIs


Possible that others may see you take the pill


Periods may become irregular, lighter, less painful, or stop altogether

Lasts for

Lasts as long as you take it


Can cause acne

Preventing pregnancy

More than 99% effective if used without mistakes

Starting on this method

Can buy over the counter from some pharmacies or get a prescription from a doctor or nurse. You may have to use additional contraception for two days depending where you are in your cycle when you first start taking it.


Remembering to take a pill every day

How the progestogen-only pill works

The progestogen-only pill prevents pregnancy in two ways:

  • Thickening the mucus from your cervix, making it difficult for sperm to reach an egg
  • Sometimes it stops your ovaries releasing an egg (ovulation). This is the main action of POPs containing the hormone desogestrel
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Pros & cons


  • No interruption to sex
  • Over 99% effective if taken correctly
  • No long term effects to your fertility
  • Option for people who cannot use contraception that contains oestrogen
  • Can help with painful periods and premenstrual symptoms


  • No protection against STIs
  • May experience spotting or irregular periods
  • Has to be taken around the same time every day (within three hours or 12 hours of that time depending on the pill)
  • Effectiveness reduced by certain medicines, types of antibiotic vomiting and diarrhoea 
  • Temporary side effects in first few months including spots, headaches, weight change and breast tenderness

Periods and the progestogen-only pill

You may not have regular periods while taking the progestogen-only pill and you may experience spotting between periods. Periods can become lighter or more frequent. It is also possible for your periods to stop altogether.

How to get the progestogen-only pill

The progestogen-only pill is available free of charge from a range or services including contraceptive clinics, your GP, Brook and some pharmacies.

Contraception and sexual health services such as Brook are free and confidential, including for people under the age of 16. Health professionals work to strict guidelines and won’t tell anyone else about your visit unless they believe you’re at serious risk of immediate harm. Find out more about Brook’s confidentiality policy.

You can also buy the progestogen-only pill from pharmacies without a prescription.

At the appointment

When you go to get the progestogen-only pill, an appointment will typically include:

  • A few questions about your medical and family history, to work out what would suit you best
  • You’ll discuss other medicines you are taking in case they can make the progestogen-only pill less effective

When you first start the progestogen-only pill you will usually be given a three month supply. Follow up appointments and reviews are then usually every 6-12 months providing there are no issues.

You will not be required to have an internal or breast examination for the progestogen-only pill.

When to start the progestogen-only pill

If you start taking the progestogen-only pill in the first five days of your period, you will be protected against pregnancy straight away.

If you have a short menstrual cycle, where your period is normally 23 days or less, starting on the fifth day of your period may mean you are not immediately protected (because you might ovulate early). You therefore may need to use additional contraception, such as condoms, for the first two days.

If you start taking the pill at any other time in your menstrual cycle, it will take two days before it starts to work. So you’ll need to use condoms for the first two days.

Starting on the progestogen-only pill after pregnancy

It’s possible to start on the progestogen-only pill after giving birth, a miscarriage or abortion but when it is safe to start on this method does vary.

After giving birth

You can become pregnant from as little as three weeks after giving birth.
You can start on the progestogen-only pill any time after birth. If you start within the first three weeks (before day 21) you are protected from pregnancy immediately. If 21 days or later, you will need to use additional contraception for the first two days of taking the progestogen-only pill. It is safe to use while breastfeeding.

After an abortion or miscarriage

You can become pregnant from two weeks after an abortion or miscarriage.
If you start on the progestogen-only pill within five days of the abortion of miscarriage you are protected from pregnancy straight away
Any later than day five and you will need to use additional contraception for the first two days.

Always speak to your midwife, GP or nurse at a sexual health clinic to check this is the right method for you

How to take the progestogen-only pill

How to take the progestogen-only pill:

  • Choose the time of day that suits you best and take it at the same time every day until you finish the packet (this will help you remember and get into the habit of taking it)
  • Start the next packet straight away.

It’s best if you get into a habit of taking the pill at the same time every day meaning you’re less likely to forget. When you take the pill also affects how effective it is depending on which type of progestogen-only pill you have:

The three-hour progestogen-only pill

Contains the progestogen hormone levonorgestrel or norethisterone. These must be taken within three hours of the same time each day. It is this type that is referred to as the ‘mini pill’. Examples are Femulen, Micronor, Norgeston and Noriday.

The 12-hour progestogen-only pill

Contains desogestrel (such as Cerazette). This must be taken within 12 hours of the same time each day.

Factors impacting its effectiveness

  • Taking it outside of the designated 3 or 12 hour window
  • Vomiting within two hours of taking it
  • Very severe diarrhoea that lasts for more than 24 hours
  • Some medicines such as those used to treat epilepsy, HIV and TB and the complementary medicine St John’s Wort (If you are prescribed medication always say you are taking the combined pill)
  • Certain antibiotics (Commonly used antibiotics do not reduce the effectiveness of the pill, but it is always best to check with the doctor, nurse or pharmacist first)
  • Talk to a pharmacist, doctor or nurse and use additional contraception such as condoms until you know for sure your contraception is working to protect you from pregnancy.

What to do if I miss a pill

If you have missed a pill outside of the 3 or 12 hour window
  1. Take a pill as soon as you remember. If you have missed more than one, only take one
  2. Take your next pill at the usual time. This may mean taking two pills in one day. This is not harmful
  3. 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 have unprotected sex in the two days following your missed pill, you may need emergency contraception
If you have missed a pill but it’s still inside the 3 or 12 hour window:

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 and do not need emergency contraception.

Coming off the progestogen-only pill

How quickly it leaves your system:
Hormones from the pill usually leave your body within a couple of days – no matter how long you have been taking the pill for.
How quickly you can get pregnant:
Depends when ovulation starts again. This could be days or months depending on the person. Fertility levels should return quite rapidly, so use condoms or another method if you don’t want to get pregnant.
What happens to your periods:
Talk to a nurse or doctor if you have irregular periods after stopping the POP and are worried, or if it’s taking a long time for your periods to start again.
What physical changes there might be:
Everyone reacts slightly differently to coming off the pill. Symptoms are generally temporary as your hormone levels self-regulate over the course of a few weeks or months.

If you stop taking the progestogen-only pill but don’t want to become pregnant remember to use another method of contraception. Condoms will also protect against STIs.


What if I start on the progestogen-only pill and don’t like it?

You may experience some side effects of taking the progestogen-only pill in the first couple of months but these tend to be short-term. This is why, if you can, it’s best to trial a contraception method for at least three months before deciding it’s not for you.

There are different types of progestogen-only pill so you might find that another type of progestogen-only pill will suit you better. It’s a good idea to talk to a medical professional to discuss your options.

What’s the difference between the combined pill and the progestogen-only pill?

As the name suggests, the combined pill contains oestrogen and progestogen whereas the progestogen-only pill only contains progestogen. This means they affect your period, mood and skin differently.

The combined pill is generally taken every day for three weeks and then you have a week’s break in which you have a withdrawal bleed that is like a period. Whereas, you take the progestogen-only pill every day and your periods may stop altogether or become irregular.

The combined pill isn’t suitable for everyone and the progestogen-only pill tends to be a good alternative if you cannot take the combined pill. However, it’s best to talk to your GP about your individual case.

Will the progestogen-only pill affect my libido?

Different contraceptive methods affect people differently. It is possible that contraception may increase or decrease your libido.

If this happens and you don’t like it, you can always stop and try another method. It’s all about finding the method that works for you.

For some, being on contraception in itself helps increase their libido as they have reduced anxiety around having sex knowing that they are protected from pregnancy.

More FAQs

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