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Everything You Need to Know About Progestin Only Pills

Everything You Need to Know About Progestin Only Pills

Oral contraceptives have been on the market for decades. Oftentimes, they contain estrogen and progestin which emulates a natural hormone released when someone is pregnant, called progesterone. Oral contraceptives aren’t quite as monolithic as that, though, because a variant called the “minipill” or progestin only pills have also been readily available for a while.

How they work

Progestin is a form of progesterone and is also used in other forms of birth control. It’s common to find progestin in long-term birth control implements like the Intrauterine Device (IUD) and implants.

The way progestin works is that it makes it harder for the sperm to travel and reach the egg by thickening the cervical mucus. Not only that, it also makes the uterine lining, called the endometrium, thinner. This makes it harder for the egg to implant onto the wall of the uterus. Around40% of the time, it also suppresses the ovulation. This is because the body detects it as a form of progesterone and signals not to ovulate.

Why use them?

Originally, progestin only pills were a workaround to breastfeeding mothers needing birth control. However, even now that science has debunked the effect of birth control pills on lactation. Some doctors and patients are still more confident using progestin-only pills.

It’s not unknown how birth control side effects could be challenging. From severe nausea to chills, progestin only pills have been well-understood to have less severe side effects. Estrogen, the chemical excluded from the minipill, could have possible side effects for certain people. This could make progestin only pills the better fit birth control method. The dosage is also generally lower. This means anyone who may experience any sensitivities of the sort would be less likely to develop severe side effects with progestin only pills.

Progestin only pills would also be recommended for people with a previous occurrence, pre-existing condition, history, or increased risk of blood clots in legs or lungs. These are also recommended for people who smoke, are older than 35, or have high blood pressure.

Possible risks and side effects

Progestin only pills have a 13% rate of failure within a year of use. Comparing this to other oral contraceptives, progestin only pills have a higher failure rate than other contraceptive methods. To add to that, there’s a higher chance that the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus and possibly causes an ectopic pregnancy if it implants on the fallopian tube. Rest assured, though, that there are no links to a heightened likelihood to birth defects and the mini pill.

It’s also important to note that the mini pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STI). It could lead to side effects like acne, breast tenderness, decreased libido, depression, headaches, irregular bleeding, nausea, and ovarian cysts.

Things you need to know

You will need a prescription to purchase and use progestin only pills and it’s recommended that you discuss the schedule with your health service provider. But you can start at any point in your menstrual cycle.

Bleeding between periods for the first few months is nothing to be worried about. More often than not, this goes away on its own after enough months of being on the progestin only pill.

When you stop, it would take about a month up until a month and a half before you get your period and a lot about it may change. There may be spotting, a change in volume, or an immediate pregnancy once you stop your medication.

What to do next

Consult your healthcare provider about your starting date and pick a time to take the pill regularly. It’s important to be cautious with missing it or drinking it late because it’s possible that the thickened mucus will start to thin and the contraceptive effect of the pill would have worn off. This also means that you shouldn’t take breaks between packs so make sure to get a refill before your current pack runs out.

Consult your healthcare provider if you experience chills or fever, chest or leg pain, difficulty breathing, or particularly heavy bleeding that lasts more than a week.


There could be many reasons why someone would want to take contraceptives. Taking into account that every person is different and will have different responses to the myriad of options that we now have available, it’s important to make informed choices regarding your own body.

Learn more about Contraception here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Mini pill, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/minipill/about/pac-20388306 Accessed October 21, 2021

Progestion Only Birth Control Pills, https://familydoctor.org/progestin-only-birth-control-pills/ Accessed October 21, 2021

Birth control pills, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000656.htm Accessed October 21, 2021

Progestin only hormonal birth control pill and injection, https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/progestin-only-hormonal-birth-control-pill-and-injection Accessed October 21, 2021

Progestin, https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/mmwr/spr/progestin.html  Accessed October 21, 2021


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Written by Tracey Romero Updated Oct 26
Fact Checked by Kristel Lagorza