Mini pills are Progestin Only Pills (POP) that contain only 35 micrograms of progestin (a human-made form of progesterone) and no estrogens and thus have fewer side effects than standard combination birth control pills. These types of non-estrogen containing birth control pills are becoming more popular, especially for those women with certain risk factors or certain high-risk medical conditions that preclude their using combination birth control pills. Read on to learn more about the risks and benefits of using mini pills to see if they might be the right birth control choice for you.

What Are Mini Pills?

Mini pills are birth control that contain only 35 micrograms of the hormone progestin and no estrogen. They are generally considered slightly less effective in preventing pregnancy than combination birth control pills. Like all types of birth control pills, they do not protect against any kinds of sexually transmitted diseases.

How Do Mini Pills Work?

Mini pills prevent ovulation (the release of a mature egg by the ovaries) and thus avoid the possibility of pregnancy. Mini pills can also change the characteristics of the cervical mucus and of the endometrium (mini pills thin the lining of the uterus), which also decreases the likelihood of pregnancy.

Benefits for Taking the Mini Birth Control Pill

Since progestogen-only pill affects women differently than pills that contain estrogen, they can be considered safer for women who:

  • Are sensitive to estrogen
  • Are over 35 years old
  • Have a history of cigarette smoking
  • Have a history of very high blood pressure
  • Have a history of migraine headaches
  • Are at high risk for heart disease or blood clots
  • Are currently breastfeeding

Deterrents to Taking the Mini Pill

Be careful about taking the “mini” pill if you:

  • Are allergic to progestins, aspirin, or yellow food coloring
  • Have a history of breast or liver cancer
  • Have a history of hepatitis or cirrhosis of the liver and currently taking anticonvulsant or anti-tuberculosis or anti-HIV medications
  • Have a history of acne
  • Have a history of nausea
  • Have a history of fatigue
  • Have a history of depression
  • Have a history of decreased sex drive
  • Have a history of tender breasts
  • Have a history of ovarian cysts
  • Have a history of weight gain or weight loss
  • Have a history of bleeding between periods
  • Have a history of skipped periods
  • Have a history of mood swings
  • Have a history of dizziness
  • Have a history of thinning hair

Side Effects of Using the Mini Pill

Some possible side effects of using the “Mini” birth control pill include irregular menstrual bleeding, more or less frequent periods, lighter periods and spotting in between periods.

Other side effects include acne, mood swings, nausea, dizziness, bloating, weight gain, headache and thinning of the hair.

Examples of Mini Pills

Some examples of popular mini birth control pills include:

Mini birth control pills which contain only progestin generally have fewer side effects than combination birth control pills which contain both progestin and estrogen. They work by preventing ovulation and changing cervical mucus while thinning the endometrium and thus preventing pregnancy.

Mini pills are an excellent option for those who suffer from migraine headaches, high blood pressure, blood clots, have a high risk for the development of heart disease, are breast feeding, are over the age of 35 years old or who smoke cigarettes. Side effects of mini pills such as spotting or irregular periods are considered to be less bothersome than those of combination birth control pills.