What is it?

Progestin-only pills (POP) are also called minipills. They contain a form of the hormone progesterone called progestin. The dose of progesterone is lower than in combined pills, which also contain estrogen.

You take one pill each day, even during your period.

How well does it prevent pregnancy?

An effective form of birth control, but not as reliable as the implant, hormonal IUD, copper IUD, sterilization for men or women, or combined oral contraceptive pills.

About 7 out of 100 women using minipills get pregnant in a year of use.


Prevents the monthly release of an egg from the ovaries (ovulation) in most women. Progesterone also thickens the mucus in your cervix. This stops sperm from entering the uterus. The lining of the uterus also becomes thinner.

You need to be very careful about taking these pills every day at the same time to prevent pregnancy. If you don’t take the pills regularly, you are more likely to become pregnant.


Brands include Micronor, Nor-QD, and generics.


  • Effective birth control.
  • Safe if you want to use pills, but can’t use birth control with estrogen because you:
    • Are a smoker over 35
    • Have had a blood clot
    • Have had serious side effects from estrogen
    • Have coronary artery disease or high blood pressure
  • May be safe for some — but not all — women who:
    • Have had a stroke (though not if the stroke occurred while using minipills)
    • Have lupus
  • Safe if you recently had a baby or are breastfeeding.
  • Sex can be spontaneous.
  • Reversible. Stop taking the pills if you want to try to get pregnant.


  • You have to take a pill every day at about the same time each day. This method becomes less effective if you don’t take pills on time every day.
  • If privacy is a concern, you may prefer another method.
  • Your periods may not be regular. You may have spotting at unexpected times or even stop having periods. You’ll need to call your doctor if you think you might be pregnant. Signs of pregnancy include breast tenderness and nausea (“morning sickness”).
  • No-go with some health issues and medicines:
    • Breast cancer within the last five years
    • Serious liver disease
    • Certain seizure medicines


Possible side effects include:

  • Acne
  • Headache
  • Breast tenderness
  • Mood changes, such as feeling more emotional or depressed


  • Can reduce heavy menstrual bleeding, painful periods, and anemia.
  • Even if you have normal periods, you may bleed less. About 10 out of every 100 women stop having periods.
  • May improve:
    • Endometriosis
    • Irregular periods
Consider keeping emergency birth control (“morning-after pill”) at home to use as backup. It works best to prevent pregnancy if taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex or birth control mishaps, but may work if taken up to 5 days afterward. Brands include Plan B, ella, and others.
Use with condom to avoid getting or spreading sexually transmitted diseases or infections, including HIV.
Forgetting to take pills daily at about the same time can result in pregnancy. If you miss taking a pill within three hours of your usual time, you’ll need to use a backup method for 48 hours. If you have had sex in the last five days and miss a pill, consider using emergency birth control.