Mini-Pills

What are these progesterone-only contraceptive pills?

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Medically reviewed by: Dr Kathryn Basford

Last reviewed: 16 Feb 2019

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Contents of this article

The mini pill or progesterone-only pill (POP) is a form of contraceptive pill taken by females to prevent pregnancy. It is different to “the pill” because it only contains one female sex hormone and does not contain oestrogen.

What is the mini pill?

The mini pill is a type of contraceptive pill which only contains the hormone progesterone and does not contain oestrogen.

All mini pills work by thickening the mucus in the cervix, which stops sperm from reaching an egg and so prevents pregnancy. Some types of mini pill (desogestrel pills) also work by stopping ovulation (so an egg is not released).

If taken perfectly, all mini pills are over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. So, less than 1 in 100 women who use the progesterone-only pill perfectly would get pregnant every year. However, because many women don’t use it perfectly, it’s only around 92% effective in practice. So, if you do use the mini pill as your main form of contraception, you must make sure you take it properly so you get the maximum protection. Since the mini pill doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), we also recommend using a barrier method like condoms.

What are some mini pill brand names in the UK?

The mini pill brands Zava offers are:

  • Cerelle: this is a progesterone-only pill which contains desogestrel, a synthetic sex hormone
  • Cerazette: is exactly the same as Cerelle except they are made by different manufacturers, hence the different names
  • Norgeston: contains a synthetic form of progesterone called levonorgestrel
  • Noriday: is a mini pill which contains the active ingredient, norethisterone, a synthetic form of progesterone

Cerelle and Cerazette are both desogestrel pills, which work by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary. They differ from other pills such as Norgeston and Noriday because you have a longer time window to take them - they are sometimes known as 12 hour mini pills.

How do you order the mini pill online?

You can start or reorder the progesterone-only pill online from us. The process is quick and simple:

  • Fill out a short online assessment of your health and lifestyle
  • Place an order for your preferred treatment option
  • A Zava Doctor will check your assessment to see if your order is right for you
  • If your order is right for you, then it can be posted to your preferred address or you can collect it from a local post office instead

You can order the mini pill from us if you:

  • Are over 18 years of age
  • Want to be protected from pregnancy
  • Aren’t already pregnant
  • If you don’t already have some existing medical conditions or other medications that make the mini pill unsafe to take
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Does the progesterone-only pill affect menstrual bleeding and periods?

The progesterone-only pill can make menstrual bleeding and periods irregular. Women who take the mini pill can experience:

  • Lighter periods
  • More frequent or heavier periods
  • Periods stop altogether
  • Spotting between periods

So yes, one of the mini pill side effects is causing bleeding, particularly between periods.

What are reviews of the mini pill like?

The reviews of the mini-pill are largely positive. Many of our customers are happy with their mini-pill and are pleased with its results. Some women who take Cerazette report that they’ve experienced no negative side effects while others experience mood changes, acne, or weight gain. Females who suffer from heavy, long or irregular periods report that Cerazette really helps, particularly because it stops their periods from happening altogether.

The mini pill has some benefits including:

  • It doesn’t interrupt sex
  • You can use it at any age, even if you’re over the age of 35 and smoke (unlike the combined pill)
  • You can use it if you are breastfeeding
  • It can be taken if you can’t tolerate oestrogen

What are the side effects of the mini pill?

Like all medications, the mini-pill can cause side effects. Although it’s generally well-tolerated by women and side effects are rare, they can include:

  • Changes to bleeding patterns
  • Breast tenderness
  • Breast enlargement
  • Increase or decrease in sex drive
  • Changes in mood
  • Headaches
  • A migraine
  • Feeling sick or vomiting
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Weight gain

These side effects often occur within the first few months of starting the mini pill. So, they should subside within a few months. If you’re worried about any side effects or they are not going away speak to your doctor for advice.

You should seek medical advice straight away if you:

  • Experience the effects of a blood clot: breathlessness, severe pain or swelling in either of your legs, unexplained chest pains, or an unusual cough
  • Have a sudden severe stomach ache or yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Feel a lump in your breast
  • Have a sudden severe pain in your abdomen
  • Experience unusual, heavy bleeding from the vagina
  • Think you may be pregnant
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Medically reviewed by:
Dr Kathryn Basford

Dr Kathryn Basford is a qualified GP who works as a GP in London, as well as with Zava. She graduated from the University of Manchester and completed her GP training through Whipps Cross Hospital in London.

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Last reviewed: 16 Feb 2019

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