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The Progestogen Only Pill or Mini Pill

Find out all you need to know about the mini pill

The Progestogen Only Pill or Mini Pill

There are two types of contraceptive pill: the combined pill, and the progestogen-only pill, also known as the 'mini pill'. The progestogen only pill is a daily tablet that contains one hormone: progestogen.

The hormone makes it harder for sperm to get into the uterus (womb) and may also change the lining of the uterus so an egg cannot develop in it. It sometimes prevents an egg from being released by the ovaries each month.

Video - The Progestogen-Only Pill

Would you like to find out everything you need to know about the progestogen-only pill (mini pill) in under two minutes? We've created this short explainer video, filled with information about the mini pill:

  • What it is
  • How effective it is in protecting against pregnancy
  • Advantages
  • Disadvantages
  • Risks
If you do not have a routine and think you will not be able to take a pill at the same time each day, the mini pill may not be the right method for you, and you may wish to consider a LARC (Long-Acting Reversible Contraception) method.

How to take the mini pill

In your first appointment with a doctor or clinician, you will discuss a range of contraceptive methods to find the one that suits you. Often, you will talk about your lifestyle, preferences, needs and medical history, and the clinician will assess the risks and benefits of contraceptive methods for the individual, considering all alternatives.

When taking your first pill, choose a convenient time to take it. This can be any time of the day. Once you've chosen a time you must then take one progestin-only pill at this same time every day

After you finish all the pills in the pack start a new pack the next day so there are no breaks between packs.

Do you know about LARC contraceptive methods?

If you really don’t want to get pregnant, say for the next year at least, it’s worth thinking about a LARC method: LARC stands for long acting reversible contraception, such as the implant, coil and injection. Once these methods are fitted you can forget about them!

Effectiveness of the mini pill

The pill works well at preventing pregnancy. However, its ability to stop a pregnancy largely depends on a person using it properly.

With typical use, up to 7 out of 100 users will become pregnant.

How long does the mini pill take to work?

If you start to take the mini pill during the first five days of your period, you will be protected against pregnancy immediately

If you start to take the mini pill on any other day, you will not be protected against pregnancy until you've taken the pill for two days.

The mini pill - the perfect 'bridging method'


If you haven't quite made up your mind about contraception, you may want to consider a temporary or 'bridging' method to get you from now until you get the method of your choice without putting you at risk of an unwanted pregnancy. 

The mini pill is the perfect 'bridging method', due to how quickly it protects against pregnancy.

Advantages, Disadvantages and Side Effects of the Mini Pill

As with all contraceptive methods, there are a range of advantages, disadvantages and potential side effects when taking the progestin-only pill (mini pill).

Advantages of the Mini Pill

  • Your period may become lighter, or stop altogether.
  • It can be used when you are breastfeeding.
  • Your fertility will return to normal immediately after you stop using the mini pill.
  • You can start it straight after childbirth, abortion or miscarriage.
  • It is not used during sex, and so will not affect spontaneity. 
  • There are less risks associated with its use than with the combined pill. To find out more about the risks associated with the combined pill, read our blog: "The contraceptive pill and blood clots: everything you need to know"

Disadvantages of the Mini Pill

  • It has to be taken once per day, at the same time. Forgetting to take the pill on a daily basis could make it fail.
  • Some users develop more frequent or irregular bleeding while taking the mini pill.
  • Some users may experience headaches, breast tenderness and acne, but these symptoms generally get better within the first few months of using the pill.
  • The pill may not work if you have vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • The use of some medications, such as those for seizures (fits), HIV or for tuberculosis, can make the pill less effective. Check with your medical provider if your medications are compatible with use of the pill. 
  • Condoms are the only contraceptive method which protect against sexually transmitted infections. To ensure protection from both pregnancy and infection, we recommend "dual protection". This means using a male or female condom in addition to the contraceptive method of your choice to prevent pregnancy.

Where can I get the mini pill?

In the UK, you can get the mini pill for free from sexual health clinics, some GP surgeries and some young people's services.

Following its recent reclassification, you can also buy the mini pill directly from a pharmacy, without a prescription. 

At MSI UK, we primarily offer contraception services as part of your abortion care. We also recently launched new contraception-only clinics in a number of areas, meaning you can access LARC (Long-Acting Reversible Contraception, such as the IUD, the IUS, the implant and the injection) with us without having had a termination of pregnancy. Follow the link to find out more: MSI UK Contraception Clinics


What to do if you miss a mini-pill

What to do if you miss a mini pill depends when you missed your pill, how many pills you have missed, and whether your mini pill contains desogestrel or not.

For more information on what to do if you miss a combined pill, read the NHS website: What should I do if I miss a pill (combined pill)? 

Try our Digital Contraception Counsellor "Choice"

It’s important to know more about different contraceptive options so that we can support you as best we can. Our digital counsellor "Choice" helps you find the best contraceptive options for you. Fill out a questionnaire about your lifestyle, preferences, needs and medical history, and you'll see a list of the most appropriate contraception options for you,.