Mini-pills contain only synthetic progestogen and are usually taken by women who smoke and/or are older than 35, who are unable to take combined pills because of the added oestrogen. Mini-pills have a lower risk of side effects and are taken for the full 28 days of your cycle. The most popular mini-pills include Cerazette and Micronor.
The mini-pill is a form of oral contraception used to prevent pregnancy from occurring. Often people make the mistake of assuming it is similar to the combined birth control pill, but just a lighter dosage. This is because the name ‘mini-pill' can be a bit misleading.
The mini-pill is a completely different product to the regular combined pill. The main difference is that the mini-pill has only one hormone in it, a synthetic progestogen. Because it only has one hormone, its side effects are much less severe. In fact, there are very few side effects associated with the mini-pill.
The mini-pill is not as effective as the regular combined pill, and needs to be taken strictly at the same time every single day of the year, without a break. It is a common form of contraception for women over 35 and for women who cannot, for whatever reason, take the regular pill.
The main advantages of the mini-pill is that it is a much milder form of contraception, and has less side effects. It might be less effective, but the associated health risks are much lower than those of the combined pill. It can be taken in many circumstances in which the regular pill cannot be taken - for example if you are breastfeeding, have diabetes, smoke, have high blood pressure or are older than 35.
One of the main disadvantages of the mini-pill is that it doesn’t control periods. This means that you could experience constant spotting when taking the mini-pill, and will never be sure when you are going to start your period, how long it will last or how heavy it will be.
Another disadvantage, especially for busy women, is that you need to be extremely diligent about taking the mini-pill at the same time every day. If you do not do this, it will not be effective. You may also find that you will suffer from breast tenderness, and be slightly more susceptible to an ectopic pregnancy, which is a dangerous complication of pregnancy where the egg implants itself outside the womb.
How does it work?
The mini-pill works by doing two things:
- It thickens the secretion around the neck of the cervix, making it difficult for sperm to get through and fertilise the mature egg
- It makes the lining of the womb thinner and therefore less receptive to holding a fertilised egg
Most mini-pills don’t stop ovulation from occurring, which is how most combined contraceptives protect against pregnancy. However, some new versions of the mini-pill can now prevent ovulation as well.
How effective is it?
The mini-pill is not quite as effective as the regular pill. If you had to compare it to another birth control method, it would probably be as effective as an IUD. It is only considered effective if it is taken at the same time daily for the duration you are on the pill and want to be protected from pregnancy. If you miss one day, or take it at random times, it will not be effective.
When is it not safe to take the mini-pill?
You should not take the mini-pill if you experience or suffer from:
- Liver tumours
- A history of breast cancer
- Being overweight
- Not being able to keep a routine or schedule
- Severe artery disease
- Diagnosed vaginal bleeding