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What's the difference between the mini-pill and 'The Pill' — Ask Dr Jean

Ask Dr Jean 14 Oct 2020
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When it comes to women's health, there is no such thing as a silly question. Do you have a question you want answered, but have been too afraid or embarrassed to bring it up with your GP? Or you forgot to ask while you were in the doctor's surgery? Now, you can 'Ask Dr Jean'.


Answering your questions for this edition of 'Ask Dr Jean' is gynaecologist and Jean Hailes Medical Director, Dr Elizabeth Farrell AM

Question

What are the differences between the mini-pill and the combined oral contraceptive pill? Is one better than the other?

Answer

The pill is a form of contraception that you take as a tablet.

The combined oral contraceptive pill – also known as 'The Pill'

Combines two hormones oestrogen and progestogen. 'The Pill' works by stopping a woman’s ovaries from releasing an egg each month and also thickens the mucus at the entrance of the uterus, to prevent the sperm from getting through.

The progestogen-only pill – also known as the 'mini-pill'

Only uses one hormone which is a low dose of progestogen and it works by thickening the mucus at the entrance to your uterus, making it form a plug that stops sperm from getting through. The 'mini-pill' has a greater failure rate because it doesn’t impact ovulation and needs to be taken at the same time each day. It is often given to mothers who are breastfeeding as it doesn’t contain oestrogen and therefore doesn’t interfere with milk production

Dr Elizabeth Farrell
In summary

'The Pill'

  • Combines two hormones oestrogen and progestogen
  • Prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg as well as thickening the mucus at the entrance of the uterus
  • Higher efficacy rate and more widely used.

The 'mini-pill'

  • Low-dose progestogen only
  • Thickens mucus at the entrance of the uterus
  • Lower efficacy rate and mainly used for women who cannot have oestrogen or are breastfeeding.

Read more about these and other methods of contraception.