The mini-pill is a type of birth control pill that contains about half the amount of the hormone progestin found in most combined oral contraceptives. There is no estrogen in mini-pills. About 50% of women who take the mini-pill continue to ovulate. The mini-pill prevents pregnancy by making cervical mucus thicker, which helps keep sperm from penetrating through the cervix to fertilize the egg.
The lower dose of the mini-pill means it is important you take your pill at the same time every day. Some medical providers recommend you use a back-up method (like condoms) for first three cycles while using the mini-pill.
The progestin-only birth control pill (also known as the mini-pill or POPs) is a good option for people who are sensitive to the hormone estrogen. Combined oral contraceptive pills contain estrogen. Those who are breastfeeding or have a medical condition that prevents the use of estrogen-containing contraceptives can also use the mini-pill.
The mini-pill offers other benefits, including some protection from:
Because the mini-pill doesn’t contain estrogen, those taking it may have a lower risk of blood clots and heart attacks compared to people using regular birth control pills.
The following symptoms can occur when one starts taking the mini-pill. They are usually mild and go away sometime during the first few months of taking the pill. If they do not stop or if they become too bothersome, talk to your provider about changing the way you take the pill or the kind of pill you take.
More serious side effects are rare but may include:
Contact your doctor or local emergency room if you experience any of the following, which may be warning signs of a blood clot, heart attack or stroke:
Certain drugs taken at the same time as birth control pills can make them less effective. Such drugs also may cause an increase in breakthrough bleeding. This more commonly occurs with medications for epilepsy and the anti-tuberculosis drug, rifampin. If another medication is prescribed while you are taking the pill, talk with your health care provider and your pharmacist about possible problems from taking these medications together.
Instruction for use may vary slightly from one brand to another. You should read and follow the instructions that come with your pill. With all brands of pills, it is recommended that you:
If you are late or miss taking your pills, take the missed pill as soon as you remember that you missed it. Take your scheduled pill at the regular time even if that means taking two pills in one day. If you are more than three hours late taking the mini pill, there is a good chance you could become pregnant.
Use a back-up method for the next 48 hours. If you’ve had unprotected sex recently, you may want to consider taking emergency contraception (the morning after pill). If your menstrual period does not begin within 4-6 weeks, see your clinician for a pregnancy test.
Bedsider.org provides information about many different birth control methods
Planned Parenthood's website offers information on the effectiveness of different kinds of birth control methods
If you are a UW student or an established Hall Health patient, you may call Hall Health's Consulting Nurse service for further information.
Authored by: Hall Health Center Women's Health Clinic staff
Reviewed by: Hall Health Center Women's Health Clinic staff, January 2014