POP prevents pregnancy by thickening the mucus in the cervix to stop sperm reaching an egg.
The desogestrel progestogen-only pill can also stop ovulation.
Progestogen-only pills contain the hormone progestogen, but don’t contain oestrogen.
You need to take the progestogen-only pill reliably every day and if taken correctly, it’s more than 99% effective.
You take a pill every day, with no break between packs of pills.
The progestogen-only pill can be used by women who can’t use contraception that contains oestrogen.
You can take the progestogen-only pill if you’re over 35 and you smoke.
You must take the progestogen-only pill at the same time each day. If you take it more than 3 hours late (traditional progestogen-only pill) – or 12 hours late (desogestrel pill) – it may not be effective.
If you’re sick (vomit) or have severe diarrhoea, the progestogen-only pill may not work.
Some medicines may affect the progestogen-only pill’s effectiveness – ask your doctor for details.
Your periods may stop or become lighter, irregular or more frequent.
Side effects may include spotty skin and breast tenderness – these should clear up within a few months.
You’ll need to use condoms as well as the progestogen-only pill to be protected against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
How to take the progestogen-only pill
There are 2 different types of progestogen-only pill:
3-hour progestogen-only pill – must be taken within 3 hours of the same time each day
12-hour progestogen-only pill (desogestrel progestogen-only pill) – must be taken within 12 hours of the same time each day.
You can start the progestogen-only pill at any time in your menstrual cycle.
If you start it on day 1 to 5 of your menstrual cycle (the first 5 days of your period), it’ll work straight away and you’ll be protected against pregnancy. You won’t need additional contraception.
If you have a short menstrual cycle, you’ll need additional contraception, such as condoms, until you’ve taken the pill for 2 days.
If you start the progestogen-only pill on any other day of your cycle, you won’t be protected from pregnancy straight away and will need additional contraception until you’ve taken the pill for 2 days.
After having a baby
If you’ve just had a baby, you can start the progestogen-only pill on day 21 after the birth. You’ll be protected against pregnancy straight away.
What to do if you miss a pill
If you forget to take a progestogen-only pill, what you should do depends on:
If you’re less than 3 or less than 12 hours late taking the pill (depending on the pill you take).
take the late pill as soon as you remember, and
take the remaining pills as normal, even if that means taking 2 pills on the same day.
The progestogen-only pill is very safe to take. But, as with the combined contraceptive pill, there are certain risks.
For most women, benefits of the progestogen-only pill outweigh the risks.
Some women can develop fluid-filled cysts on their ovaries. These aren’t dangerous and don’t usually need to be removed.
The cysts usually disappear without treatment. In many cases, the cysts don’t cause symptoms, although some women experience pelvic pain.
Research is continuing into the link between breast cancer and the progestogen-only pill.
There isn’t enough evidence to say for certain that the progestogen-only pill doesn’t increase the risk of breast cancer.
But if there is any increased risk, it’s likely to be very small and disappear with time after you stop taking the progestogen-only pill.
Doctors don’t think using the progestogen-only pill is likely to increase the risk in women who have close relatives who have had breast cancer.
What is Desogestrel?
Desogestrel is a contraceptive pill used to prevent pregnancy, called the mini-pill or progestogen-only pill. It only contains one hormone desogestrel the synthetic version of progestogen. It does not contain oestrogen and is suitable for women who are sensitive to oestrogen or for those that smoke or are over 35 years old.
It is 99% effective with additional benefits, including easing of the cramping due to menstruation, reduction of the heavy menstrual flow and regulation of the menstrual cycle.
How does Desogestrel work?
This mini pill works to prevent pregnancy in three different ways
1) Desogestrel works mainly by stopping your ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation).
2) Increases the thickness of the natural mucus at the neck of the womb, making it more difficult for sperm to cross from the vagina into the womb,
3) thinning of the womb lining (endometrium), making it more difficult for any successfully fertilised eggs to implant there.
How to take Desogestrel?
Each strip of Desogestrel contains 28 tablets – 4 weeks supply.
Take your tablet each day at about the same time. Swallow the tablet whole, with
Desogestrel is the same as other mini-pills that contain desogestrel 75 micrograms; these include Cerelle, Zelleta and Feanolla.
Key facts about Desogestrel
It can be taken by most women, including breastfeeding mothers, heavy smokers and those with high blood pressure, migraine or a risk of blood clots.
Cerazette is 99% effective when taken correctly, but missing pills, vomiting, diarrhoea and taking certain other medicines can make it less effective. See below.
One desogestrel tablet should be taken every day, at the same time each day. With this type of pill you don’t have a break between packs.
If you’re more than 12 hours late taking a pill you won’t be protected against pregnancy and you’ll need to use condoms for the next two days. See below.
Desogestrel won’t protect you against sexually transmitted infections; you’ll still need to use condoms for that.
Who shouldn’t take Desogestrel ?
Desogestrel can be taken by most women, including women who can’t take oestrogen-containing contraceptives. However, it may not be suitable for women with:
Abnormal vaginal bleeding that hasn’t been investigated by a doctor.
Breast cancer or a history of breast cancer. (But, your doctor may say you can take Cerazette if you have been free of cancer for five years and you don’t want to use non-hormonal methods of contraception.)
Liver cancer or severe liver cirrhosis.
Serious arterial disease, eg that has caused a stroke, angina or heart attack.
Rare metabolic disorders called acute porphyrias.
Read the leaflet that comes with your pills, or talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you want any more information about the possible side effects of Cerazette. If you think you’ve experienced a side effect, did you know you can report this using the yellow card website?
Like all medicines, Cerazette can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them.
Tell your doctor if you notice any unwanted effect, especially if severe or persistent.
Serious side effects associated with the use of Cerazette are described in section 2 ‘What you
need to know before you take Cerazette’. Please read this section for additional information on
‘Breast cancer’ and ‘Thrombosis’ and consult your doctor at once where appropriate.
Vaginal bleeding may occur at irregular intervals while using Cerazette. This may be just
slight staining which may not even require a pad, or heavier bleeding, which looks rather like a
scanty period. You may need to use tampons or sanitary towels. You may also not have any
bleeding at all. Irregular bleeding is not a sign that Cerazette is not working. In general, you need
not take any action; just continue to take Cerazette. If bleeding is heavy or prolonged you
should consult your doctor.
How often are other possible side effects seen?
Common (affecting less than 1 in 10 women): mood changes, depressed mood, decreased sexual
drive (libido), headache, nausea, acne, breast pain, irregular or no periods, weight increase.
Uncommon (affecting less than 1 in 100 women) infection of the vagina, difficulties in wearing
contact lenses, vomiting, hair loss, painful periods, ovarian cysts, tiredness.
Rare (affecting less than 1 in 1000 women) skin conditions such as: rash, hives, painful blue-red
skin lumps (erythema nodosum)
Apart from these side effects, breast secretion or leakage may occur.
You should see your doctor immediately if you experience symptoms of angioedema, such as (i)
swollen face, tongue or pharynx; (ii) difficulty to swallow; or (iii) hives and difficulties to