The Pill and Mini Pill

The combined pill contains the hormones oestrogen and progestogen (the hormones that are naturally released from the ovaries).

You take the pill every day for 21 days, then stop for seven days. During that week, you have your period. After seven days, you start taking the pill again.


The progestogen-only pill (POP) is sometimes called the mini-pill or POP. It contains the hormone progestogen but doesn't contain oestrogen, which some women cannot take. The progestogen-only pill has to be taken every day within a specific three-hour period.

How does it work?
The hormones prevent you from ovulating (releasing an egg), although the progestogen-only pill only does this in some women. They both make it difficult for sperm to reach an egg by thickening the mucus in the cervix and thinning the lining of the womb making it harder for an egg to implant itself.

How effective is it?
If used correctly, both can be more than 99% effective. This means that less than one woman in 100 who takes the pill will get pregnant in one year. The chance of getting pregnant increases if:

  • the pill isn't taken according to the instructions,
  • it doesn't stay in the body long enough to work, for example, when you vomit, or have an upset tummy
  • other medications make it less effective, always ask your Doctor.

Added benefits?

  • You don't ovulate when you take the combined pill, so you don't have a real period every month. Instead, you get a withdrawal bleed, which can be much lighter and shorter than a period. If you have problems with heavy, painful periods, taking the combined pill can help.
  • It can protect against cancers of the ovary, womb and colon, and some pelvic infections.
  • The POP can be used by women who can't use contraception that contains oestrogen, for example, because of high blood pressure, previous blood clots or being overweight.
  • You can take the POP if you're over 35 and you smoke.

What else should I know?

  • To be effective, it must be taken at the same time every day, and on the correct days.
  • You could get pregnant if you don't take it at the same time every day, you miss one, you vomit or have severe diarrhoea, or you take other types of medication.
  • The combined pill isn't suitable for women over 35 who smoke, or women with certain medical conditions. Your doctor or nurse can tell you whether you can take this kind of pill.
  • There are side effects so always consult a doctor.

By using condoms as well as the combined pill, you'll help to protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).