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The combined and mini pill explained

The combined and mini pill explained

The contraceptive pill (commonly called ‘the pill’) is an oral tablet containing synthetic versions of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone similar to the ones naturally produced by your body. Before taking the contraceptive pill, you should be aware of how the different types may impact on your body and on your lifestyle as there are over 20 pill brands in Ireland and the effects can vary greatly from woman to woman. It is important to remember that everyone is different, and finding the right pill can take some time.

What types of pill are there?

There are two different types of contraceptive pill: 

  • The combined pill
  • The mini-pill

The difference is mainly in the hormones. The combined pill contains oestrogen and progestogen and the mini-pill just progestogen. Women who cannot take contraception containing oestrogen are usually put on the mini-pill. These women include those who are breast-feeding, are overweight or have a high blood pressure, or are smokers aged 35 and over. In most other cases, a woman may be prescribed the combined pill.

What is the combined pill? 

The combined pill is an oral contraceptive containing hormones which prevent your ovaries from releasing an egg. It is 99% effective but only when taken correctly. Popular brands include Mircolite and Ovranette. Different combined pills contain varying strengths of oestrogens and progestogens and there are three main types of combined pill.

Monophasic and multi-phasic pills

Monophasic pills contain the same amount of hormones in each tablet. 

Multi-phasic pills contain two or three sections of different colour pills with varying amounts and types of hormones in each. It is important to take these pills in the exact order specified on the packet. 

Monophasic and Multi-phasic pills come in 21 day preparations and everyday pills. 21 day preparations require you to take one pill each day for 21 days followed by a seven day pill free break, when you should experience a withdrawal bleed. 

Everyday pills

Everyday pills are taken each day and depending on the particular brand of pill, contain some inactive or dummy pills in each packet. When taking an everyday pill you should not take a pill free break in between packets but you should still experience a withdrawal bleed.

Some women experience side effects with the pill, these include headaches, nausea, mood swings and breast tenderness. For a full list of possible side effects, always check the patient information leaflet which accompanies your pill. 

What is the mini-pill?

The mini-pill is a combined oral contraceptive which contains progestogen. It works by thickening the mucus in the cervix which stops sperm reaching an egg or by stopping ovulation, depending on the type you take. The mini-pill is 99% effective when taken correctly, and must be taken at the same time each day to be fully effective. This pill is taken continuously without a seven day break. Popular brands include Cerazette and Noriday.

Looking for contraception?

Go to our contraception service

Authors and editors

Reviewed and updated by: Our clinical team Date reviewed: 22-09-2023