What Is the Minipill?

Medically Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on February 05, 2022

The minipill is a type of birth control pill. It’s made with progestin, a man-made form of the hormone progesterone your body makes.

Regular birth control pills have progestin and a second female hormone called estrogen. They’re known as combination birth control pills. The minipill has a lower dose of progestin. And because it doesn’t have estrogen, the minipill may have fewer side effects.

How It Works

The minipill prevents pregnancy in several ways. It thickens the mucus inside the cervix. This makes it hard for sperm to travel to the egg. It also thins the lining of the uterus. This helps keep the fertilized egg from implanting itself. Like regular birth control pills, it also helps prevent ovulation. This is when the ovary releases an egg. But the minipill doesn’t block eggs as well as combination pills. So it’s slightly less effective in preventing pregnancies.

Why Take It

You may want to go with the minipill if you:

Breastfeed. With estrogen in combination birth control pills, you may not make as much breastmilk. Your doctor may recommend the minipill if you plan to nurse your baby.

Are over 35 and smoke, have high blood pressure, or have a history of blood clots. The minipill may be safer for you to take than combination birth control pills.

Want to avoid estrogen. The hormone may interact with other medicine you take. Estrogen also can give some women stomach pain or bad headaches.

Have dermatitis. The minipill may help treat this skin condition. Dermatitis causes red, swollen, sore skin. It may be linked with your menstrual cycle.

Who Should Avoid the Minipill?

The minipill isn’t right for every woman. Your doctor may suggest you avoid it if you have:

How to Take It

The minipill comes in a pack of 28. Unlike combination birth control pills, there’s no row of inactive, or placebo, pills. It’s important to take the minipill every day and at the same time each day. Your body clears progestin more quickly than the hormones in combination birth control pills. If you take the minipill more than 3 hours outside of your usual time, it may not work as well to prevent pregnancy. If you miss the 3-hour window, use a condom or don't have sex for the next 2 days.

If you forget to take a pill, take one as soon as you remember. That may mean you take two pills in one day. Take them a few hours apart. Then take the next pill at your regular time.

When you first start the minipill, take it within 5 days of when your period starts. It takes time for the minipill to work. Use a condom every time you have sex in the first week after you start the minipill.

Dangers and Side Effects

If you get pregnant while taking the minipill, it can cause problems. You’re more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy. This is when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, such as in a fallopian tube. You won’t be able to continue with your pregnancy, and you may need surgery to remove the fetus.

Possible side effects of the minipill include:

The minipill doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections. Always use condoms to reduce your chance of disease.

Show Sources


Mayo Clinic: “Minipill (progestin-only birth control pill).”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Progestin-Only Birth Control Pills.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Birth Control: The Pill.”

Center for Young Women’s Health: “Progestin-Only Oral Contraceptive Pill (POP) or Mini-pill.”

Healthy Women: “Mini-pill (progestin only).”

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