Regular birth control pills have progestin and a second female hormone called estrogen. They’re known as combination birth control pills. The minipill has a lower dose of progestin. And because it doesn’t have estrogen, the minipill may have fewer side effects.
How It Works
The minipill prevents pregnancy in several ways. It thickens the mucus inside the cervix. This makes it hard for sperm to travel to the egg. It also thins the lining of the uterus. This helps keep the fertilized egg from implanting itself. Like regular birth control pills, it also helps prevent ovulation. This is when the ovary releases an egg. But the minipill doesn’t block eggs as well as combination pills. So it’s slightly less effective in preventing pregnancies.
Why Take It
You may want to go with the minipill if you:
Who Should Avoid the Minipill?
The minipill isn’t right for every woman. Your doctor may suggest you avoid it if you have:
- Breast cancer or had it before
- Liver disease
- Had weight loss surgery
- Any trouble taking the pill at the same time every day
- Uterine bleeding and don’t know why
- To take drugs for conditions like tuberculosis, HIV or AIDS, or seizures
How to Take It
The minipill comes in a pack of 28. Unlike combination birth control pills, there’s no row of inactive, or placebo, pills. It’s important to take the minipill every day and at the same time each day. Your body clears progestin more quickly than the hormones in combination birth control pills. If you take the minipill more than 3 hours outside of your usual time, it may not work as well to prevent pregnancy. If you miss the 3-hour window, use a condom or don't have sex for the next 2 days.
If you forget to take a pill, take one as soon as you remember. That may mean you take two pills in one day. Take them a few hours apart. Then take the next pill at your regular time.
When you first start the minipill, take it within 5 days of when your period starts. It takes time for the minipill to work. Use a condom every time you have sex in the first week after you start the minipill.
Dangers and Side Effects
If you get pregnant while taking the minipill, it can cause problems. You’re more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy. This is when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, such as in a fallopian tube. You won’t be able to continue with your pregnancy, and you may need surgery to remove the fetus.
Possible side effects of the minipill include:
- Lower sex drive
- Tender breasts
- Cysts on the ovaries
- Weight gain or loss
- Bleeding between periods
- Skipped periods
- Mood swings
- Thinning hair
The minipill doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections. Always use condoms to reduce your chance of disease.