Progestogen-only contraceptive tablets

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Carefully read and follow the printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about your brand of pill.

Take one tablet every day, at the same time of day.

If you forget to take a tablet on time, take it as soon as you remember. If you are more than 3 hours late and you are taking Micronor®, Norgeston®, or Noriday®, you must also use a condom for the following two days. If you are taking Cerazette®, Aizea®, Cerelle®, or Nacrez® and you are more than 12 hours late, you must also use a condom for the following two days.

Type of medicineProgestogen-only contraceptive pill (POCP)
Used forContraception
Also calledAizea® (containing desogestrel); Cerelle® (containing desogestrel); Cerazette® (containing desogestrel); Micronor® (containing norethisterone); Norgeston® (containing levonorgestrel); Nacrez® (containing desogestrel); Noriday® (containing norethisterone)
Available asTablets

Progestogen-only contraceptive tablets are also known as the 'progestogen-only pill', or the 'mini-pill'. It is commonly used when the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), which also contains oestrogen, is not suitable. It can be safely taken if you are breast-feeding.

Progestogen-only contraceptive tablets contain a progestogen (which is a female sex hormone) similar to the progesterone hormone made naturally by your ovaries. Progestogens used in progestogen-only contraceptives include desogestrel, levonorgestrel and norethisterone.

Progestogen-only contraceptives work mainly by thickening the mucus made by the cervix. This makes it very difficult for sperm to travel through the cervix and into the womb in order to fertilise an egg. They also affect the lining of the womb so that it does not become thick enough for an egg to attach to and grow. It also has some effect on the ovaries, and ovulation (the release of an egg each month) may not occur as often.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons before you start taking the mini-pill, it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you think you might be pregnant.
  • If you have any problems with the way your liver works.
  • If you have a problem with your arteries, called arterial disease.
  • If you have systemic lupus erythematosus (an inflammatory condition, often called SLE).
  • If you have had breast cancer or a cancer that you have been told is dependent on a sex steroid.
  • If you have an ovarian cyst, or any vaginal bleeding other than your normal monthly period.
  • If you have a rare inherited blood disorder called porphyria.
  • If you have a condition that interferes with the absorption of food (such as coeliac disease, cystic fibrosis or pancreatitis).
  • If you have ever had an ectopic pregnancy or if you have developed jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes) during a pregnancy.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • If you are taking any other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines. This is because some medicines interfere with the way contraceptives work.
  • Before you start taking the tablets, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about the brand of pill you have been given, and also a full list of side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Take one tablet each day, starting on day one of your cycle (the first day of your period). If you have just had a baby, you may be asked to start taking it straightaway.
  • Progestogen-only contraceptive tablets are taken every day, including when you are having a period. When you finish one pack, start another pack the next day. You can choose a time of day to take your tablets that suits you, but you should take them at the same time, each day. It is important not to be late taking your doses, or to miss any. 
  • If you do forget to take it on time, take it as soon as you remember, and then take the next dose at your usual time. If you are taking Micronor®, Norgeston®, or Noriday®  and you are more than three hours late in taking a tablet, you are not protected against pregnancy. In this case, continue to take your tablets each day as normal, but you must also use an additional method, such as a condom, for the next two days. If you are taking Aizea®, Cerazette®, Cerelle®, or Nacrez® and you are more than twelve hours late in taking a tablet, you are not protected against pregnancy. In this case, continue to take your tablets each day as normal, but you must also use an additional method, such as a condom, for the next two days.
  • To help decide whether this contraceptive tablet is suitable for you, your doctor will assess your general health. Make sure you attend your regular appointments with the doctor or nurse. This is especially  important if you have an existing medical condition, as your health may need to be more closely monitored.
  • Important: if you vomit or have diarrhoea, it can reduce the effectiveness of the mini-pill. If you are sick within two hours of taking a tablet, take another straightaway. If the sickness continues or if you have severe diarrhoea, you must use additional contraceptive precautions such as a condom while you are ill and for two days after you recover.
  • If at any time you suspect that you may be pregnant, stop taking the tablets and make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Some medicines can reduce the effectiveness of this pill. These include medicines for epilepsy, medicines to treat fungal infections, the herbal preparation St. John's wort, and medicines used to treat tuberculosis (TB). Make sure your doctor knows about any other medicines you are taking, and if you buy any medicines 'over the counter', always ask your pharmacist for advice.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common mini-pill side-effects - these affect less than 1 in 10 people who take this medicineWhat can I do if I experience this?
Feeling sickEat simple or bland meals - avoid rich and spicy food. If you are sick within two hours of taking a pill, take another tablet as soon as possible (see also the information above on vomiting)
HeadacheAsk your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If the headache continues, contact your doctor for advice
Irregular periods, mood swings, reduced sex drive, increase in acne, increase in weight, and breast discomfortIf any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

If you are having an operation or any dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • British National Formulary; 67th Edition (March 2014) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Document ID:
3466 (v24)
Last Checked:
Next Review:
The Information Standard - certified member

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