Birth Control: Progestin-Only Contraceptive Pills (The Minipill)

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Progestin-only contraceptive pills, also called the Minipill, are a form of daily birth control that contains the hormone progestin.  This method does not contain estrogen. Progestin is much like a hormone made naturally in your body.  The Minipill prevents pregnancy by changing the mucus at the cervix to help keep sperm from reaching an egg.

Advantages of the Minipill

  • 91 percent effective against pregnancy with typical use
  • Does not contain estrogen
  • Safe to use right after giving birth and while breast-feeding

Disadvantages of the Minipill

  • Irregular bleeding and spotting
  • Possible side effects include: weight gain, nausea, breast tenderness, headache,
    acne, ovarian cysts, and change in mood.

How to use it

  • It is important to take your pill at the same time every day at a time of your choosing.
  • If a pill is missed by more than 3 hours, you should take a pill as soon as possible,
    even if that means taking 2 pills in the same day. Then, use a backup method of birth control, such as condoms, for the next 2 days.  Emergency contraception (EC) should be considered if you have had unprotected or inadequately protected sex.
  • Vomiting and severe diarrhea can keep the Minipill from working well. If this happens, use a backup method of contraception for the next 2 days.


Ectopic pregnancy:  If you do get pregnant, there is an increased risk of the fertilized egg implanting outside of the uterus.  This is very dangerous and is considered a medical emergency.

Who cannot use it

The Minipill should not be taken by women who:

  • Have a history of breast cancer.
  • Have lupus with certain antibodies.
  • Have severe liver disease or liver tumors.
  • Have had certain bariatric surgeries.
  • Use certain seizure medicines or rifampin.

Tell your health care provider if you have any of these risk factors or conditions, or any other medical concerns.

When to call the doctor

Call the doctor or healthcare provider if you:

  • Think you might be pregnant.
  • Think you might have a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
  • Miss a period or are late starting your period.
  • Have new or worsening headaches.
  • Have depression or change in mood.

Preventing STIs

The minipill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms are the best way for sexually active people to reduce the risk of infection.  Always use a condom when you have sex.  Get yearly health check-ups, including testing for STIs.

Birth Control: The Minipill (PDF)

HH-IV-192 10/17 Copyright 2017, Nationwide Children’s Hospital