Progesterone only contraceptive pills (POP), also known as the ‘mini pill’ or ‘progestin only pills’ are contraceptive pills that contain only one type of hormone –progestin. Progestin in the synthetic (manufactured) form of the natural hormone: progesterone.
The POPs are more suitable than COCPs for some women, due to the fact they do not contain oestrogen.
There are many different types of progesterone only contraceptive pills, some with slightly higher doses of hormones in than others, and some with slight variations on the synthetic type of progestin in. They are all just as effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy (99% effective when taken correctly).
How do POPs work?
The main mode of action of desogestrel POPs is by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg (that's ovulation, class). In order to work, POPs including desogestrel (all but one of the POPs available at HANX), must be taken at the same time every day, within a maximum of a 12-hour window.
However, more traditional POPs act by thickening of the mucus at the neck of the womb, making it more difficult for sperm to enter and reach an egg. The only pill we offer that has this mode of action is Norgeston, and therefore must be taken at the same time every day, within a maximum of a 3-hour window.
Why should I choose a POP?
- They are very effective. If taken correctly, they are over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This means that less than 1 person in 100 people who take the pill will get pregnant in a year.
- You can take a POP any time after giving birth, including straight after delivery, and whilst breastfeeding.
- There are lower levels of hormones compared with the COCPs.
- Your fertility returns as soon as you stop taking the POP.
- Taking a POP does not interfere with sex, unlike other contraceptive methods.
- There is no increased risk of blood clots with POPs, unlike the COCPs.
Key things to be aware of with the POP
- You must be organised to remember to take the pill at the same time every day, otherwise it may not be effective. For the older POPs you must take the pill within 3 hours of the time you took it the day before, and ones with desogestrol hormones, within 12 hours. Over this time is counted as a missed pill.
- If you miss a POP take your missed pill as soon as you realise. Then take the next one on time and keep taking the pills as usual after that. Use condoms if you have sex after missing a pill, or emergency contraception (more on that below) if you have already had sex after realising you missed a pill. Once you start taking the pill again you will be protected after you have taken 3 pills daily.
- POPs can cause irregular vaginal bleeding and other side effects – see below.
- They are associated with an extremely small increased risk of breast cancer.
- If you fall pregnant when taking a POP, there is a small chance this pregnancy could be an ectopic (meaning the pregnancy is not in the correct place and this can be dangerous). This being said, you’re less likely to have an ectopic pregnancy when taking a POP compared to not using any contraception at all.
- Certain medications can interfere with the action of POPs, so be sure to let us know about any medical problems you have and any medications you’re taking.
- The POPs do not protect against STIs, so be sure to get tested if you’re at risk of an STI.
When ordering a COCP from HANX, we take your medical history very seriously, and therefore need to know certain aspects in order to safely prescribe your pill.
Side Effects of POPs
The main side effects reported with progesterone only pills are around bleeding. As a guide, roughly half of women will not have any bleeding (or very sporadic) when taking a POP, and although this might be ideal for some women, others prefer to have some kind of bleeding for their peace of mind. It’s worth noting that there is no need for you to bleed regularly, and it is perfectly safe and normal to have no bleeding at all on a POP.
Roughly 4 out of 10 women have normal or regular bleeding on a POP, whilst 1 in 10 women experience frequent bleeding (2 or more episodes per month), and 2 in 10 women will experience prolonged bleeding (lasting 14 days or more per episode).
These types of irregular bleeding (frequent and prolonged) can be tricky to manage due to its unpredictable nature, and therefore can put some women off using the POP.
As well as changes in bleeding, some people have reported a decreased libido when taking a POP. However, there are a lack of studies showing a link between the POP and decreased libido, so no association has been proven. Similarly, some women report weight change when taking a POP, but there is no medical evidence to show this.
Other side effects include acne and breast tenderness, which often clear up within a few months.
How to order your Progesterone Only Pill via HANX
All POPs require a prescription, so we can ensure you’re getting the correct pill for your needs and medical history. Here’s how the HANX Fix: Pill service works:
- Simply choose your pill, add to your basket, and answer our confidential questionnaire before checkout.
- When the prescription is approved by our trusted pharmacy team, you can receive your order as soon as the very next day with Express Delivery. Pro tip: you’re
- You can choose either a 3 months or 6 month supply of the pill, depending on your preference and the advice of our pharmacy team.
- All our outer packaging is discreet, so no one will know that you’ve ordered the pill if you don’t want them to.
Get started ordering the POP here.
New to hormonal contraception?
Want to share your experiences with the pill?
Need some friendly, non-judgemental chat about birth control?
Chances are: you’re not the first or only one to feel the way you do, or experience what you're experiencing.
HANX Life, our free, anonymous forum is a digital safe space to help you connect with the HANX community in a TMI-free zone. Join us there.
- The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH): Standards and Clinical guidance.
- National Health Service (NHS): Contraception Guide.
- National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE): Hormonal Contraceptives