Lifestyle / Series

Contraception: The Mini Pill

It’s small, it’s cute and it mostly comes in pastel colours – it’s the mini pill!

The mini pill or otherwise known as the ‘progestin-only’ pill is an alternative oral contraceptive for women. Unlike the combined contraceptive pill (what is known as The Pill) it only contains the hormone Progestin. Progestin is the manufactured hormone that has similar functions as Progesterone. Progesterone is used to help the body regulate a women’s menstrual cycle and is also crucial in assuring a successful pregnancy.

This pill was developed in 1973 as a response to women who could not take the combined pill with estrogen due to histories of blood clots, high blood pressure, over-weight or negative reactions as a result of the estrogen.  It is also recommended for women over 35 who smoke.

The mini pill works much like the combined pill in that it thickens the cervical mucus to slow sperm from entering the uterus, delays the release of eggs into the uterus and thins the lining of the uterus to make implantation difficult.

Mini pills have a slightly lower protection rate than the combined pill, being 87-99.7% effective in preventing pregnancy when taken correctly. One of the biggest differences between the two is that the mini pill needs more discipline as it must be taken at the same time every day to retain its effectiveness.

There are two types of mini pills; a 3-hour and a 12-hour pill. The 3-hour one must be taken within 3-hours of the same time each day and the 12-hour must be taken within 12-hours of the same time each day.

In South Africa, Micro-Novum,  Microval, Norethisterone and Levonorgestreare the four kinds of ‘progestin-only’ pills available.

An incredible benefit of the mini pill is that it helps prevent Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, an infection which attacks the uterus and Fallopian tubes. In addition it also helps prevent ovarian and endometrial cancer.

However, the mini pill has been known to cause some serious side effects such as ovarian cysts and ectopic pregnancies – which is when the egg implants in the Fallopian tubes, leading to serious internal injury.

Like the branded combined pills the mini-pill requires a consultation and a prescription from a doctor.

“We [the health care center] only give the pills we get from the government [combined pill],” explained Lunga Jadi, Administrator at the Health care Center. “If a student needs another kind [such as the mini pill] they have to go to a doctor for the prescription.”

Coming up next week: The Implant

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