Various birth control and contraceptive options are presently popular among couples looking to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Different options have varying success rates, with accompanying side effects and possibilities of failure. This has narrowed the search for an effective option, and one of the common and preferred options is the mini pill, medically known as the progestogen-only pill. With an effective rate that ranks high among various options, the pill is popular. The subsections that follow, explain all about the pill, its mechanism of action, and mini pill side effects to help users cope with possible undesirable outcomes.

Overview of the mini pill

The mini pill is essentially the progestogen-only pill that requires to be taken daily for effective results. With an effective rate in excess of 99%, it offers couples relatively higher safety and protection from unplanned pregnancies. The pill works by increasing the thickness of the mucus in the cervix; and this thickening prevents the sperm from reaching an egg, thereby preventing conception.

The pill is ideally taken daily without any break in between. However, many women are known to take the pill as required, and this is known to bring down the effectiveness considerably to 91%. The mini pill is also the best option for women who are unable to rely on estrogen contraceptive methods. One of the reasons for the impact on effectiveness is the incorrect schedule of intake followed by women. The pill is to be taken every single day at the same time as the previous dose. A delay anywhere between 3 to 12 hours can affect the outcomes of preventing pregnancy.

Recommended methods of taking the pill

The following recommended methods of taking the pill will help to achieve better effectiveness or outcomes from the pill. The pill is available in two different formulations or types – 2-hour and 12-hour pills. The 3-hour pills are progestogen-only pills, while the 12 hours pills are desogestrel progestogen-only formulations. The hour time prefix of the tablets essentially means that the pill needs to be taken within 3 hours or 12 hours of the same time daily.  Women who intend to control or prevent mini pill side effects or women who intend to achieve high levels of effectiveness from the pills are advised to stick to recommendations.

For instance, it is necessary to pick a time that would be convenient to follow for the entire duration of use of the pill. This will make it easy to have a routine in place with an appointed time for the pill daily. The pill is safe to be taken by women at any stage of the menstrual cycle. The pill will deliver protection from unplanned pregnancy after three days of commencement and will continue to offer protection till the time the pill is taken.  Women who intend to seek protection from pregnancy immediately after childbirth are advised to start intake of the pill, three weeks after delivery.

Missed doses can be skipped if its close to the next schedule

Most individuals tend to make an error when it comes to handling a missed dosage. Women are known to take a double dose or take the missed dose even when it’s close to the next dose. This is incorrect and is to be avoided. A simple rule of thumb applies for missed dosages – if the missed dose has been noticed a short time after the scheduled time, the missed dose can be taken and the next scheduled dose is to be continued as usual. However, in the event that the missed dose has been noticed or remembered when it’s close to the next scheduled dosage, the missed dose is to be skipped altogether and the next scheduled dose is to be taken on time, as usual.

Possibility of pregnancies due to missed dosages

There is a possibility of pregnancies due to missed dosages, and women are advised to bear this in mind. In the event that dosages are missed, women are advised to pick other additional contraceptive methods to protect from the possibilities of pregnancies. After the dosage schedule is back on routine, the additional contraception methods can be discontinued. ‘

One of the reasons for the need for additional emergency methods of contraception, in the event of missed dosages and the need to give at least two days for the pill to work, is the mechanism of action. The thickening of the cervical mucus takes a minimum of two days, and only after this is completed, the pill is effective in preventing pregnancy. The thick cervical mucus prevents the sperm from getting to the egg or from surviving long enough to perform its role. This is precisely why it is necessary for women to look at additional emergency methods of contraception during the first few days or when a dose is missed.

The need to take an additional pill in special circumstances

In the event of women vomiting within two hours of intake of the pill, it could mean that the pill has also been vomited, or the ingredients may not have been absorbed as desired. This may render the pill ineffective in delivering desired outcomes. This makes it necessary for individuals to take an additional pill, and continue the routine of taking the next pill at the scheduled time.

The unsuitability of the pill for certain categories of users

The pill is generally suitable for all users, however, there are certain categories of users who are advised to avoid the pill. For instance, women who suspect pregnancy due to possible symptoms of pregnancy are advised to stay off the pill till confirmation of the same. Other categories of users who may not be suitable for pill intake include women who wish to keep their periods unchanged, as the pill is likely to bring about a change in menstruation.

Women on other medications that may trigger interactions are also to avoid the pill, as the efficacy of the pill may be compromised due to interactions with other pills. Similarly, users who experience bleeding in the intervening period between menstruation are to stay off the pill. This also applies to users who experience bleeding after indulging in sexual intercourse. Women with certain pre-existing conditions are to avoid the pill as this could have adverse outcomes. This includes women diagnosed with arterial disease or users who have suffered a stroke in the past. Any history of heart disease is to be dealt with caution, and the medication is not to be taken, without specific medical advice.

Other conditions that make users unsuitable for the pill include women diagnosed with liver ailments, tumors, or cirrhosis of the liver. Women diagnosed with breast cancer or women who recovered from breast cancer are also to stay off the pill.

Facts to allay apprehensions or fears about the pill

Women nursing and breastfeeding infants can safely take the pill as this does not have any impact on the milk. While there is a possibility of progestogen passing into the milk, there is no reason for alarm, as this is not known to cause any adverse effects on the breastfeeding infant. As mentioned earlier, women who suspect a pregnancy are to stop the pill, as it will not serve any purpose during pregnancy. There is a possibility of apprehension that the pill may cause an adverse impact on the fetus in the womb. However, this is misplaced, as the medication is not known to harm the baby in the womb.

Compilation of possible mini pill side effects

There is the possibility of users experiencing certain undesirable effects of the medication. This includes the possibility of women ending up with irregular periods, that may occur with possible variations. For instance, the periods may be less in intensity than compared with normal periods. The frequency of the cycles may increase, or there is also the possibility of the periods stopping. Another condition that may be experienced in this category of undesirable effects is possible spotting.

When either of the partners indulging in sexual intercourse has sexually transmitted infections, the pill will not prevent the condition from being passed on to the uninfected partner.  The only way couples can protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections is by adopting barrier methods of contraception.

Commonly reported undesirable outcomes

Commonly experienced effects include the outbreak of acne when on the pill, and this condition is known to resolve after the stoppage of the pill. The breast is likely to feel tender to the touch and may also become enlarged as a result of the pill’s effects. There is the likelihood of the pill affecting interest in sex, with different outcomes in different people. Some are likely to feel an increase in sexual desire, whereas others may experience lesser interest in sex. There is the possibility of mood swings when on the pill, while many are known to report headaches and migraine. The possibility of women vomiting or experiencing feelings of nausea exists. The formation of cysts on the ovaries is a possibility; however, this is not a cause for any alarm, as the cysts may resolve naturally without the need for any treatment.

Interactions of the mini pill with other drugs and OTC products

The mini pill is likely to cause interactions when taken with other medications including certain types of antibiotics. Certain medications are known to have an impact on birth control pills and it is necessary for women to consult a specialist to determine the extent of the effect of certain medications. For instance, medications such as Carbamazepine, Felbamate, Oxcarbazepine, Phenobarbital, Phenytoin, Primidone, and Topiramate are known to have an impact on birth control pills. This is not an exhaustive list, and users are advised to consult specialists for a complete list.

The effect of certain medications on the pill is strong, and this may actually cause the pill to be ineffective in its desired outcome.

Caution about breast cancer

The effects of the pill on breast cancer are the subject of studies and research for conclusive findings. Presently, there is insufficient evidence to link the pill with breast cancer in women. However, preliminary results indicate that the risk of breast cancer may be negligible and temporary in nature, with the risk eliminated when the pill is stopped.

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