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Progesterone Only Pill

Important points

  • It is recommended to wait at least 12 months between pregnancies to reduce the risk of preterm birth, low birthweight and still birth
  • Pregnancy is possible 21 days after the birth of a baby and many unplanned pregnancies occur soon after childbirth
  • Suitable contraception is advised to be established by this point
  • Progesterone only pill (POP) is safe for most women and safe with breast feeding

How to use

  • Single pill taken at the same time every day without a break
  • 99% effective with perfect use
  • 91% effective with typical use
  • If delay in taking a pill, vomiting or diarrhoea then  the pill may not be effective


  • Can be taken by those who cannot use oestrogen containing contraception
  • May help painful periods
  • No evidence of weight gain
  • No delay in return of fertility when stopping
  • Does not interrupt sex
  • Can be taken until the menopause


  • Requires remembering to take the pill each day
  • Some drugs may affect the functioning of the pill
  • Side effects include irregular bleeding, spotty skin, and breast tenderness which usually improves in 3-6 months
  • Does not protect against STIs
  • Very small increased risk of breast cancer

May not be suitable if you

  • Have/had breast cancer
  • Have heart disease or history of a stroke
  • Have liver disease
  • Take medications that affect the POP such as those for epilepsy, HIV certain antibiotics and St Johns Wort

Diarrhoea & Vomiting

  • If within 2 hours of taking the POP another pill should be taken as soon as possible
  • If another pill is missed then additional precautions are required for 48 hours after resuming POP

Missed Pill

Traditional POP: >3 hours late (>27 hours since the last pill was taken)
Desogestrel POP: >36 hours since the last pill was taken

  • Missed pill should be taken as soon as remembered
  • Next pill should be taken at the usual time. This may mean 2 pills are taken in 1 day
  • Additional contraceptive precautions (condoms, avoidance of sex) are advised for 48 hours after restarting POP
  • Emergency contraception is indicated if unprotected sex occurred after the missed pill and within 48 hours of restarting POP

Emergency Contraception

  • Sexual health – 01978 727 197 (9am-2:30pm)
  • Prescription from your GP
  • Some local pharmacies

Perfect use: Used correctly & consistently as advised, Typical use: Not used consistently as advised, STI: Sexually Transmitted Infections