Mini Pill (POP) - Advantages, Disadvantages, Risks and Side Effects

Mini Pill (Progestin Only Pills or Progesterone Only Pill)

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sabiha Anjum (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

A couple who is not looking to get pregnant but has an active sex life now have various options available to them to prevent any surprises. Mini pills, a type of birth control pills, are one option which a couple can consider. Mini pills are formulated to prevent conception and pregnancies, thus being preferred by women who want to avoid getting pregnant after the intercourse.

What Are Mini Pills?

Mini pills are basically oral contraceptives that contain the hormone progestin. These pills contain very less progestin as compared to other combination birth control pills. These pills work by thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the lining of the uterus, thus preventing the sperm from reaching the egg.

What Are Mini Pills?

Who Can Take Progestin-Only Pills?

Breastfeeding mothers can take progestin only-pills. Young women and women above 35 years of age, who aren’t pregnant are also allowed to take these pills. These pills work best for mothers who are six months into breastfeeding.

Who Can’t Take These Pills?

If you have an erratic work schedule, experience nausea or vomiting, or if your body weight is above 70 kgs then you shouldn’t take these pills. Women with a positive history of vaginal bleeding, chronic liver disease, hypertension, and other chronic/atrial diseases are advised to not take these pills. Also, if you experience abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, or nausea when taking these pills, stop taking them immediately and consult a healthcare professional.

Breast cancer patients must avoid using these pills as other complications may arise from taking these pills.

Advantages of Using Progestin-Only Pill

Following are the advantages of using progesterone-only pills:

  • These pills can be taken by women older than 35.
  • They have fewer side effects as compared to combined birth control pills or oestrogen and progestin pills.
  • These pills are ideal for breastfeeding women as they do not reduce breastmilk production.
  • Taking these pills do not raise blood pressure levels.
  • Mini-pills also ease pre-menstrual tension.

Disadvantages of Using Progestin-Only Pill

Disadvantages of Using Progestin-Only Pill

Following are the disadvantages of taking these pills:

  • Nausea, depression, and low sex drive are common side effects of taking these medicines.
  • These pills do not prevent an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Taking these pills may not be effective for women who are above 70 kgs.
  • These pills are also ineffective at preventing pregnancies if not taken at the same timing every day.
  • These pills come with certain side effects, like not having periods or breakthrough bleeding which lasts a few days.

How Do Progestin-Only Pills Work?

The progestin hormone in these pills prevent eggs from being released by the ovaries, though not consistently, and thickens the cervical mucus to eliminate chances of fertilization. These pills also thin the uterus lining which prevents the sperm from reaching the egg.

Effectiveness of Progestin Pills

Progestin-only Pills (POP) contain the hormone progesterone and not oestrogen, which makes them lesser effective than their counterpart combination birth control pills. Since these pills are designed for breastfeeding women, they do not affect the baby after birth in the breastfeeding stage. The effectiveness rate for progestin pills is 2 to 9 pregnancies out of 100 women every year with a success rate between 87% to 99.7% for preventing pregnancies (the reason being that most women don’t take these daily as instructed).

The success rate is 100% when these pills are taken daily and on time as per instructions.

Mini Pill Risks and Side Effects

The progesterone-only pill side effects and risk factors are similar to those of pregnancy symptoms. They are as follow:

  • Mood swings, nausea, and depression
  • Slightly increased risk of heart attacks, breast cancer, blood clots, and stroke
  • Breast tenderness, acne, and headaches
  • Uneven weight gain
  • Unpredictable bouts of menstrual bleeding which may be irregular in nature
  • Not very effective if not taken daily and on time since 1 out of every 9 women get pregnant every year by using these pillsMini Pill Risks and Side Effects

How to Take Progestin-Only Pills

These pills should be taken on the first day before you start intercourse. The first day of your period is ideal to start taking these pills. Before you take the pill, talk to your doctor regarding your family history, pre-existing medical conditions and any other medications you take. This will help him plan out your timings for taking the pill, how to take it, and the preferred dosage for maximum effectiveness.

Talk to your doctor regarding backup methods and alternative options for the days when you miss these pills or if you can’t seem to stick to the schedule.

Can You Take the Progestin-Only Pill While Breastfeeding?

This is a common question that most women ask. The simple answer to this is, yes. The progestin-only pill can be taken if you’re breastfeeding. Taking these pills won’t harm the baby.

What to Do If You Miss Your Mini Pill

The mini-pills must be taken on time, and even if you miss it by 2 or 3 hours, it will still be effective. However, if the window extends beyond that, you can take two pills on the same day but there should be a gap of at least a couple of hours when taking these pills.

From the next day, take the mini pill at your usual time and stick to the timing. If you miss your mini pill on the same day, use a backup method like using condoms during intercourse to lower the chances of a pregnancy.

Ideally, you should abstain from sex or should use additional contraceptive methods if you miss taking the pill on the desired day. If you stop taking these pills, then you should use backup methods. The chances of you getting pregnant increase if you skip the pill. Therefore, it is advised that you stick to your schedule.

What to Do If You Vomit After Taking the Mini Pill

If you vomit within two hours of taking a mini pill, it’s all right. If you vomit before that, take another pill. However, if you constantly keep vomiting or experience diarrhoea for over a day, then talk to your healthcare provider for additional instructions.

Are There Any Medications That Make the Progestin-Only Pill Ineffective?

Some medications and herbal supplements affect the way these pills work. These drugs may interact with progesterone-only pills; so it is best to talk to your healthcare provider regarding your existing supplements and medications before taking these pills.

Do You Need to Use a Backup Method When You First Start Taking the Progestin-Only Pill?

The answer to this would be ‘yes’. Especially if you don’t take your pills on time, you shall need a backup method when you first start taking the progestin-only pill. A preferred backup method is to use condoms with spermicide prior to intercourse, along with these pills.

Signs and Symptoms That Might Indicate Medical Problems From the Mini Pills

The known signs and symptoms of the mini pill contraceptive are similar to that of pregnancy. You may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, depression and a low sex drive occasionally, when on these pills. If you take any medication that interferes with the effects of the mini pills, then you may need to talk to your doctor.

Although progestin-only pills are not the most reliable way of preventing unplanned pregnancies, they are effective when taken on time and regularly. But you must talk to a trusted medical practitioner if you have any existing medical conditions or chronic diseases before taking the mini pills.

Also Read:  Guide on Oral Contraceptive Pills

Previous article «
Next article »