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Progestin-only Oral Contraceptive Pills

Progestin-only oral contraceptive pills, often called progestin-only pills (POPs) and minipills, are estrogen-free oral contraceptives made from very low doses of synthetic progestin. POPs are appropriate for breastfeeding women and are useful for women who experience estrogen side effects of COCs. POPs are effective in preventing pregnancy when taken consistently and correctly. Their use does not affect breastfeeding or interfere with intercourse. Their effectiveness is slightly less than that of COCs, especially in younger women, but effectiveness is high in women over 35 years of age and when use compliance is good. POPs are safe for most women; only a few conditions--pregnancy, unexplained vaginal bleeding and breast cancer--preclude use of the method. Some characteristics of POPs are highlighted below.


0.5% to 10% failure rate during first year of typical use; 0.5% failure rate with perfect use in the first year

Age limitations         

No restrictions on use for women age 16 and over

Parity limitations

No restrictions on use

Mode of action

Primarily by thickening cervical mucus, thereby preventing sperm penetration, and also by inhibiting ovulation

Effect on STD risk

Not protective

Drug interaction

Certain antiseizure medications (barbiturates, carbamazepine, phenytoin, primadone) and antibiotics (Rifampin and Griseofulvin) may reduce the contraceptive effect of POPs

Duration of use

Most women can use POPs safely throughout their reproductive years; there is no need for periodic discontinuation

Return to fertility

Immediately or after slight delay

Return to Contraceptive Method List

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