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How do I take the progestin-only pill?

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read
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The progestin-only pill (POP) is a type of contraception. It contains a hormone that closely resembles the progesterone hormone produced by a woman’s ovaries. Older (traditional) POPs contain norethindrone (Camila, Errin, Heather, Jolivette, Micronor, Nora-BE). Newer POPs contain drospirenone (Slynd). The POP is also referred to as the mini pill.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved the progestin-only norgestrel (Opill) for over-the-counter use. It is expected to be available in early 2024.

How do I take it?

You should take one pill daily at the same time each day. Choose a time of day that is convenient for you throughout the week. You should immediately start another pack when you finish one pack without taking a break. For traditional POPs, you must take your pill within three hours of your regular pill-taking time. Otherwise, you will not be protected against pregnancy.

When should I start taking the POP?

You can start the POP on any day of your menstrual cycle. However, if you start the POP on days one to five of your menstrual cycle (day one is the first day of your period), you will get immediate protection against pregnancy. If you start any later, you should use condoms or avoid having sex for the first 48 hours until it becomes effective.

It is safe to take the POP when breastfeeding. You can start the POP any time after childbirth. If you start on day 21 after the birth or earlier, you will get immediate protection against pregnancy. If you start any later than day 21, you should use condoms or avoid having sex for the first 48 hours until it becomes effective. If you have had a miscarriage or an abortion, you can also start the POP at any time afterwards. If you start on days one to five after a miscarriage or abortion, you will get immediate protection against pregnancy. If you start any later, you should use condoms or avoid having sex for the first 48 hours until it becomes effective.

What should I do if I forget to take a pill?

If you forget to take the traditional POP within three hours of your regular pill-taking time, you will not be protected against pregnancy. In that case, you should take a pill as soon as you remember. If you have missed more than one pill, you should take only one. You should then take your next pill at your regular pill-taking time (this could mean taking two pills on the same day) and take the rest of the pack as usual. For the next 48 hours, you should also use condoms or avoid having sex. If you have had unprotected sex after a missed pill and within 48 hours of restarting the POP, you should speak with your doctor or pharmacist, as you may require emergency contraception.

When taking the POP, what should I do if I vomit or have diarrhea?

Vomiting and diarrhea can stop the POP from being absorbed into your body. If you vomit within two hours of taking the POP, you should take another pill immediately. Provided you do not vomit again, you will still be protected against pregnancy if you take the extra pill within three hours (traditional pills) of your regular pill-taking time. However, if you keep vomiting or have severe watery diarrhea, you must take extra precautions. Continue to take your POP as usual. However, you should also use condoms or avoid having sex for the duration of your illness and for an additional 48 hours after the vomiting or diarrhea has stopped.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
EmailFacebookPinterestTwitter
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