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Mini pill (progestogen-only pill)

3-minute read

The 'mini pill' is a type of contraceptive. It contains only one hormone and you can use it while breastfeeding.

What is the mini pill?

The mini pill is a daily pill that you can take to avoid getting pregnant. Its proper name is the progestogen-only contraceptive pill, but it is often called the 'mini pill' because it is a simpler version of the other type of daily contraceptive pill, the combined oral contraceptive pill.

Unlike the combined pill, the mini pill contains only one hormone - progestogen. The mini pill is useful for many women who can't take the combined pill, either because they are breastfeeding or for other health-related reasons.

How does the mini pill work?

The mini pill works by thickening the mucus at the entrance to your uterus (womb), making it form a plug that stops sperm from getting through. This means the sperm can't reach and fertilise the eggs released by your ovaries.

In some women, the mini pill also prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs in the first place.

Types of mini pill

There are four brands of mini pill available in Australia. Microlut contains the active ingredient levonorgestrel. The other three brands (Micronor, Locilan 28 and Noriday 28) all contain norethisterone.

Aside from the mini pill, the two other types of contraceptive pill available in Australia are the combined oral contraceptive pill and the emergency contraceptive pill.

How well does the mini pill work?

The mini pill works fairly well as a contraceptive, although not as well as the combined oral contraceptive pill.

To maximise the chance of it working effectively, you need to take it at roughly the same time each day.

What could go wrong?

If you've had vomiting and diarrhoea, the pill may not have been absorbed properly.

Some medicines or herbal remedies may also prevent the pill from working, so you should ask your doctor or pharmacist about how any other medicines you need to take might affect it.

For these reasons, some women who take the pill may still become pregnant.

The mini pill won't protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HIV; only condoms can do that.

Advantages and disadvantages of the mini pill

The main advantages of the mini pill are that it:

  • can be used by most women, including many who can't take the combined pill
  • is a low dose pill that doesn't contain oestrogen, so has less risk associated with it than the combined pill.

The main disadvantages are that it:

  • needs to be taken at the same time every day, with only a three hour window either side
  • can cause irregular periods.

If you forget to take the mini pill

If you are more than three hours late taking the mini pill, take the pill you missed. Keep taking the pills as normal, and use another form of contraception (like a condom) for the next 48 hours until you have taken 3 consecutive doses of the mini pill.

More information

For more information, see Family Planning NSW and Jean Hailes for Women's Health.

Last reviewed: February 2017

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