Progestogen-Only Pill (POP)
The Progestogen-Only Pill is an oral contraceptive pill that works by thickening the mucus in the cervix to stop sperm reaching an egg.
The Desogestrel Progestogen-Only pill can also stop ovulation.
One tablet taken daily
Over 99% effective, if taken correctly.
Otherwise, considered 91% effective.
Cost of method
£30 (for 3 months supply)
Contraceptive pills, patches and the morning after pill are offered after a telephone call with a Specialist Nurse. If you would like to see a clinician in person, then the consultation fee applies.
Same day appointments
In Birmingham Clinic
Highly confidential service
And discreetly located clinics
Specialists in sexual health
From busy NHS clinics
What are the benefits of the Progestogen-Only Pill?
If taken correctly it can be upto 99% effective.
Once taken, it will be effective after 2 days.
Helps heavy & painful periods
It may help with premenstrual symptoms and painful periods.
The POP is safe for women who are older than 35 and smoke, have high blood pressure, have a history of blood clots, migraine and headaches.
Additionally, it is safe for women who are breastfeeding (though a small amount of Progestogen may pass into your milk but is not harmful to your baby). POP is also safe after a miscarriage or abortion.
What are possible side effects of POP?
There is no evidence that POP can make you put on weight. However, hormones affect women in different ways and some can see an increase in appetite or fluid retention.
Skin changes can be a temporary side effect and should settle after 3 months, but can sometimes persist while using the method.
A common effect associated with use of the Progestogen-Only pill is irregular periods. This may include more or less frequent periods, lighter periods or spotting between periods. In a small number of women, periods may stop altogether.
Research about the risk of breast cancer and hormonal contraception is complex and contradictory. There is not enough evidence to say that the progestogen-only pill does not increase the risk of breast cancer.
Hormones affect women in different ways and may not notice a change in libido. However, some can notice a decrease or increase sex drive.
Some women may notice an increase in headaches when they first start the method, if these persist, then swapping to other types of POP.
This method does not normally cause nausea and vomiting, but if that happens it can affect how the pill works and increase the pregnancy risk.
All hormonal methods can have an effect on mood, which normally settles within the first few months. Again if your mood change is causing difficulties, then swapping pills or changing methods is an option.
The use of POP may lead to a development of Using small fluid-filled cysts on their ovaries. Often there will be no symptoms experienced by patients. However, when symptoms are present, it’s typically in the form of pelvic pain. These cysts usually disappear without treatment.
If you become pregnant while taking the Progestogen-Only Pill, there appears to be a slightly higher chance (1 in 10) that the fertilised egg will implant outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube.
Is POP safe for me?
POP is safe for most women. The main circumstances where it may not be safe for you include those who are taking certain medications for epilepsy, HIV and Tuberculosis (as this may affect the effectiveness).
How often should I take POP?
You have to take one pill every day without any break and can start at any point in the cycle.
If you’re taking traditional POP, you must take the pill within 3 hours of the same time every day.
If you’re taking Desogestrel POP, you must take the pill within 12 hours of the same time every day.
What happens if I forget to take the pill?
You can be up-to 3 hours late taking POP (or up-to 12 hours if you’re taking a Desogestrel Progestogen-Only Pill) without having any problems.
However, if it is longer than this, you may NOT be protected from pregnancy. In such an event:
- Take one pill as soon as you remember (and only one)
- Take one pill at the same time as you normally would (this may mean taking two pills on the same day – one when you remember and one at the normal time)
- Use another method of contraception for the next 48 hours or abstain from sex
If you have have unprotected sex during the 2 days of missing your pill, you may need to take The Morning-after pill as soon as possible.
What should I do if I’m sick or have diarrhoea?
If you vomit within two hours of taking POP, you will need to take another pill. As long as you don’t vomit again, you are still protected against pregnancy.
You can continue to take your next pill as per normal.
How do I stop taking POP?
You can stop taking POP at any time of your cycle. However, please note that it is possible for you to get pregnant as soon as you stop. This is because the lining of your womb starts to thicken as soon as you stop taking POP.
Page reviewed by Julie Milsom (Specialist Nurse at Clarewell Clinics)
Last reviewed date: 1 June 2021
Next review due: 1 June 2024
Whilst this content is written and reviewed by sexual health specialists, it is for general guidance only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your clinician.
References & Further Reading
- NHS: The progestogen-only pill – Your contraception guide
- MayoClinic: Minipill (progestin-only birth control pill)
- The Lancet: Use of effective contraception following provision of the progestogen-only pill for women presenting to community pharmacies for emergency contraception (Bridge-It): a pragmatic cluster-randomised crossover trial
- Health technology assessment: Provision of the progestogen-only pill by community pharmacies as bridging contraception for women receiving emergency contraception: the Bridge-it RCT.
- Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica: Multicenter, phase III trials on the contraceptive efficacy, tolerability and safety of a new drospirenone‐only pill
- PLOS ONE: Bleeding profile of women using a drospirenone-only pill 4 mg over nine cycles in comparison with desogestrel 0.075 mg
- Gynecologic Endocrinology and Reproductive Medicine: A multicenter, double-blind, randomized trial on the bleeding profile of a drospirenone-only pill 4 mg over nine cycles in comparison with desogestrel 0.075 mg
- Cephalalgia: Effectiveness of the progestin-only pill for migraine treatment in women: A systematic review and meta-analysis