There are two types of contraceptive pills; the combined pill and the mini pill. The combined pill contains several female hormones but the mini pill contains just one. It is a highly effective method of contraception but it MUST BE TAKEN VERY CAREFULLY.
How effective is the mini pill?
The pill is the second most effective method of family planning after sterilisation. However, the mini pill is not quite as reliable as the combined pill, but it is still over 96% effective, providing you take it correctly.
If it is not as effective as the combined pill, why have I been given it?
The combined pill is certainly the normal first choice unless you have a medical reason for not using it. This will be why you have been given the mini pill. Your doctor should have explained this to you, but if not please ask.
What are the side effects?
The mini pill has far fewer side effects than the combined pill. The main ones that you might notice are to do with your periods: Your periods might be longer, shorter, heavier or lighter than normal. Your periods might stop altogether. If this happens, there is always a small chance that you might be pregnant, so consult your doctor. Your cycles might become irregular. You might notice occasional blood spotting during your cycles.
If any of these happen to you, continue taking your pill as normal. These problems often settle down after a few months, but if not, your doctor may suggest a different make of pill.
What are the risks?
Unlike the combined pill, there is no increased risk of thrombosis or breast cancer. However, this does not mean that the mini pill is entirely risk free.
The main risk is called ectopic pregnancy. This is where the baby starts to develop outside your womb instead of inside it, and can be quite serious. However, less than one in a thousand mini pill users will have this problem, so the risk is very small. The main symptom of ectopic pregnancy is severe tummy pain; so see your doctor urgently if this happens to you.
I am breastfeeding my baby. Is the mini pill safe?
Undoubtedly yes. The mini pill has no effect on breast milk quality or quantity, and has no known effect on your baby.
How do I take the mini pill?
If you are not already on the pill, begin on the first day of your next period.
If you are changing from a combined pill where you have a pill free week, start on the day following the last pill in your packet. However, if you normally take a pill every day without a break, the last seven in your packet are inactive tablets. Begin taking your mini pill on the day you would have normally taken the first of these inactive pills.
The mini pill is taken every day without a break. Follow the days around your packet; take one pill every day. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you take it within an hour of the same time each day. The mini pill is most effective about four hours after you take it, so taking it in the early evening, say with your meal, is the best time for most people.
What do I do if I forget to take my mini pill?
The answer to this question depends on when you realise your mistake.
If you are less than three hours overdue with your pill:
- Take it straight away (you will still be protected) AND
- Continue taking the rest of your pills at your normal time.
If you are more than three hours overdue with your pill:
- Take the most recently forgotten pill AND
- Throw away earlier forgotten pills if there are any AND
- Continue taking further pills at your normal time AND
- Take extra precautions (e.g., condoms) for the next seven days.
What do I do if I am unwell, say with diarrhoea and vomiting?
If vomiting occurs within three hours of taking your pill:
- Simply take another one AND
- If this is also vomited, you are unprotected SO
- Take extra precautions for the next seven days AND
- Continue taking the rest of your pills at your normal time BUT
- Remember that the days on the packet will now be wrong SO
- You can no longer use the packet as a memory aid.
If vomiting occurs after three hours of taking your pill:
- You will still be protected. Continue taking your pills as normal.
If you get an attack of diarrhoea:
- The pill might not be properly absorbed SO
- Take extra precautions for seven days after the diarrhoea stops AND
- Continue taking the rest of your pills as normal.
Other important points
- Some medicines can interfere with your contraceptive and make it less effective. Therefore, always remember to tell your doctor that you are on the mini pill.
- Remember, the mini pill does not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhoea or AIDS. The only way to protect yourself is to use condoms.
- Make an appointment to see your doctor before you run out of pills.
- We recommend that you have a cervical smear test every three years.