What you need to know about the progestogen only pill

The progestogen only pill, or mini pill, is a contraceptive pill that contains the hormone progestogen. You take it every day, with no breaks.

It has very few health risks, so you can take it even if you have a history of thrombosis or have a BMI of over 35. If you remember to take it regularly, it’s a very effective method of contraception.

Also known as

  • POP

  • the mini pill

  • progesterone only pill

So I started on the mini pill a year ago. I was on the combined pill for about 5 years, which was great until I started having migraines with aura for a few months. I went to the doctor and they told me to change my pill.

I started using the one containing desogestrel straight away, the day after stopping the combined pill. I had a bleed during the first week, then nothing at all. After being on the mini pill for just over a year I started randomly having extremely light bleeding (brownish colour) which would only last for like 2 days or so every few months. I am pretty happy with this, it’s very light but a bit unpredictable.

Likelihood of getting pregnant in one year

Used perfectly, the progestogen only pill is over 99% effective. But none of us is perfect and it's more usual that people will miss pills, take them late or won’t always follow the instructions. So with more typical use, these pills are 91% effective.

This means typically 9 in 100 people using the progestogen only pill will get pregnant in one year.

The progestogen only pill is a good option if...

  • you’re good at remembering to take it every day (if this might be a problem, consider a coil, implant, patch, injectable or vaginal ring instead, as you don’t need to think about them as often)

  • you want to have hormonal contraception but don’t want any of the health risks linked to combined hormonal contraceptives (which use oestrogen as well as progestogen), such as the combined pill

  • you can’t take the combined hormonal contraception pill because you have migraines with aura, or you smoke and are over 35 years of age

  • you experience premenstrual syndrome or ovulation pain – the progestogen only pill can help with the symptoms because it stops ovulation in 60-97% of people, depending on which type you choose

The progestogen only pill isn’t good for people who…

  • have a personal or family history of breast cancer

  • have irregular bleeding, unless you’ve investigated the treatable causes of it 

  • want to have a regular bleed or period, as many people experience irregular bleeding on this type of pill

  • have reduced liver function – because your liver needs to break down the hormones in the pill

Types of progestogen only pill 

There are 2 types of progestogen only pill:

Contains desogestrel

  • effectiveness: over 99% effective

  • how likely to stop you releasing eggs: stops ovulation in 97% of cycles

  • how ‘late’ you can take it: it works if you take it within 12 hours of your normal time

Contains levonorgestrel

  • effectiveness: 98.5% effective  

  • how likely to stop you releasing eggs: stops ovulation in 60% of cycles

  • how ‘late’ you can take it: you need to take it within 3 hours of your normal time for it to work

Did you know?

If you don’t have periods while you’re on the progestogen only pill, it’s because the hormone keeps the lining of your womb thin. This means there’s no blood building up inside you to lose during a period.

Everything you wanted to know about sexual health and wellbeing - your questions answered by our expert team.