When you’re on the mini pill, also known as the progestogen-only pill (POP), you might notice irregular periods, more frequent periods, spotting or even no periods at all. For this reason, it can be difficult to tell what is breakthrough bleeding and what is a period.
Below, you can find out more about periods vs. breakthrough bleeding, and how you might be able to prevent the latter from happening.
Do you get a period on the mini pill?
Some women do get a period on the POP and this is because your body might continue to ovulate as normal. Not all POPs will suppress ovulation, and so your ovaries will still release an egg and, when this egg is unfertilised, you will have a period. A POP like Lovima®, however, does work by suppressing ovulation, so it’s likely that you won’t have a period at all.
The combined pill is slightly different in that it does prevent ovulation completely, and the bleed many women experience during their seven-day pill break is a withdrawal bleed.
Does the mini pill stop periods?
The mini pill can stop periods for some women, and this is because it can occasionally prevent ovulation altogether. It works by thickening the cervical mucus, preventing sperm from getting into the uterus, and so even if you do ovulate, the egg cannot be fertilised as the sperm cannot get through. However, in some women, the POP will prevent ovulation, which means you won’t get a period.
Ovulation can happen every month or only certain months. In fact, some POPs prevent ovulation in around 50% of a woman’s cycles, which may be why sometimes you have a period and other months you don’t.
Why am I bleeding on the mini pill?
The bleeding that women can experience on the progestogen-only pill is caused by the synthetic hormone progestogen, which mimics the progesterone our bodies naturally create. However, it’s hard to say why some women get frequent bleeding and others have none at all.
If you are experiencing any unexplained bleeding when you start taking the POP, you should speak to your doctor to check it out and to make sure they rule out pregnancy or STIs.
Bleeding is a relatively common side effect in women who take the POP. In fact, almost half of POP takers experience bleeding and seven in 10 women report breakthrough bleeding or spotting in more than one cycle. The good news, however, is that prolonged bleeding (bleeding that lasts for more than 14 days) and frequent bleeding (more than six spotting episodes) decrease the longer a woman is on the pill for.
Over 12 months of use:
- 5 in 10 women can expect to be amenorrhoeic (to not menstruate at all) or have infrequent bleeding, such as irregular periods
- 4 in 10 women will experience between three and five bleeding episodes
- 2 in 10 women will experience prolonged bleeding
- 1 in 10 women will experience more than six bleeding episodes
Bleeding usually isn’t an issue, but some women just don’t like it. Therefore, if it’s unmanageable, you could look at switching to another type of pill, or you could try one of the solutions listed below.
How to stop breakthrough bleeding on the mini pill
If you are experiencing bleeding or spotting when taking the POP, you might not be able to stop it because it’s caused by the hormone progestogen that’s in the pill.
According to Healthline.com people who smoke have a higher chance of breakthrough bleeding and so, if you are a smoker, you could try cutting back on the habit.
Changing the type and dose of POP could help, as some pills appear to suit some women better than others. You could speak to your doctor about switching to the combined pill, which contains both progesterone and oestrogen.