The progestogen-only contraceptive pill (POP), also sometimes known as the ‘mini-pill’ is now more widely available. Lovima and Hana can be bought from a pharmacist without the need for an appointment with a GP or at a sexual health clinic. You can also order these from Dr Fox alongside other POPs Cerelle or Cerazette and get up to 12 months at a time. All these pills are medically the same, consisting of 75 micrograms of the progestogen desogestrel.
Progestogen-only pills may have fewer side effects compared to the combined contraceptive pill, but there are also many other benefits.
The POP does not increase your risk of blood clots in the same way that the combined oral contraceptive does, which means you can take it if you are a smoker, have high blood pressure, or are overweight. You can use it at any age if contraception is needed – which is up to 55 years of age if you are on hormonal contraception. It can be used straight after childbirth and when breastfeeding without suppressing milk production. Women who have contraindications to using oestrogen, such as a history of classical migraines and so are unable to take the combined pill, can also benefit from the POP. It usually reduces menstrual flow and 2 in 10 women have no bleeding.
If taken as prescribed it is thought to be 99% effective, however there is a smaller window – 12 hours – in which to take the POP compared to the combined oral contraceptive which may lead to late or missed pills and then a failure in contraception. It may also cause an irregular bleeding pattern in 2 in 10 women. Side effects are rare but may include breast tenderness, acne, nausea, mood or libido changes, or ovarian cyst formation. You are also unable to take it if you have liver disease or a history of breast or liver cancer.
Considering the POP?
The POP is a good choice if you want to take a pill for contraception, especially if you are unable to take the combined contraceptive pill. You do need to be good at remembering to take a pill at the same time everyday however. There are also longer-acting contraceptives available such as the implant, depot injection, intrauterine system, and coil that could be more effective so please speak to your GP surgery or a sexual health clinic for more information on these if interested.
Being able to purchase the POP without the need to make an appointment with your GP or sexual health clinic for some will be more convenient, increasing the choice for women accessing contraception.