Mini pill (progestogen-only pill)
What is the mini pill?
The mini pill is a type of oral contraceptive that you can take daily to avoid getting pregnant. Its proper name is the progestogen-only contraceptive pill.
You need to take the mini pill at the same time every day, without a break. If you take it more than 3 hours late it might not work. You need to use condoms for 48 hours if you miss a pill.
The mini pill is different to the other type of daily contraceptive pills, the combined oral contraceptive pill, and to the emergency contraceptive pill.
Unlike the combined pill, which contains oestrogen and progestogen, 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 the uterus (womb), which stops sperm from getting through and fertilising the egg.
In some women, the mini pill also prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs in the first place.
What are the 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 cannot take the combined pill
- is a low dose pill that does not 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 3-hour window either side
- can cause irregular periods
The mini pill won't protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HIV; only condoms can do that.
What should you do if you forget to take the mini pill?
If you are more than 3 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.
What types of mini pill are available?
There are 4 brands of mini pill available in Australia:
How effective is the mini pill?
The mini pill works very well if you take it properly. But as mistakes often happen, about 7 in every 100 women who use the mini pill may have an unplanned pregnancy.
Vomiting and diarrhoea can prevent the pill from being 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 more information about contraception, see Family Planning NSW and Jean Hailes for Women's Health.
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Last reviewed: March 2021