Progesterone-only pill: what you need to know

What is the mini-pill?


You might know the progesterone-only pill as the mini pill. It differs from the more popular combined pill as it only contains one, rather than two types of hormone. It’s a preferred choice for many women who are unable to take the combined pill for a number of possible reasons, most commonly because it poses a health risk or due to a sensitivity to oestrogen- the other hormone present in the combined pill. 


What is progesterone?

Progesterone is a female sex hormone which occurs naturally in the body. Its function is to maintain the menstrual cycle and prepare the womb for pregnancy. The mini pill contains a synthetic version of progesterone which sustains a consistent level of progesterone to prevent pregnancy in three ways:

  • By thinning the womb lining so a fertilised egg cannot attach itself
  • By thickening the mucus around the cervix to make it harder for sperm to enter the womb
  • By preventing ovulation 

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Who can take the progesterone-only pill?

The progesterone-only pill is safe for many women to take. However, in certain circumstances it’s not suitable:

  • If you might be pregnant
  • If you take certain medications
  • If you experience unexplained bleeding 
  • If you have arterial or heart disease 
  • If you have liver disease
  • If you have a history of breast cancer
  • If you have tumours on your liver 


How do I take the progesterone-only pill?

The progesterone-only pill needs to be taken every day on a continual basis. It’s also important that it’s taken at the same time every day. You can start taking it at any time, but if it’s after the first five days of your period then it won’t work right away. This means you’ll need to use additional contraception for the first 48 days. 

Always check the instructions that come with your pill to make sure you’re taking it correctly. There are two types of the progesterone-only pill:

  • The 3 hour pill: this is the older type of the progesterone-only pill. It must be taken within three hours of your scheduled time in order to work. If you take it any later than this, you won’t be protected against pregnancy. 
  • The 12 hour pill: this contains a newer type of progesterone called desogestrel and must be taken within a 12 hour time period. 


What happens if I miss a pill?

If it’s been more than 3 or 12 hours since you should have taken your pill, this is considered a missed pill. If it’s just one pill, take the missed one as soon as possible, and take the next one on time. You will no longer be protected against pregnancy so it’s important that you use an additional barrier type of contraception for the next two days and ensure you take the rest of your pills correctly. 

If you’ve had sex during this time, then you could be at risk of pregnancy. In this case, seek emergency contraception as soon as you can. If you aren’t sure what to do, ask a pharmacist for advice. They will ask you a series of questions to determine if you need the morning after pill or not.


Does the progesterone-only pill cause side effects?

There are side effects associated with the progesterone-only pill but they are less likely to affect you than the combined pill. Side effects include: 

  • Acne
  • Breast tenderness
  • Changes to sex drive
  • Mood changes
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

To find out if the progesterone-only pill is right for you, start your 2-minute consultation with us today. 



NHS> Progesterone-only pill:

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