For the first time ever in the UK, women can now buy a contraceptive pill over-the-counter from pharmacies, doing away with the need for a prescription on the progestogen-only mini pill. This has been hailed as a landmark moment for women’s health, enabling women to have easier access to a safe and effective oral birth control. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have approved two oral contraceptives for prescription-free sale, but pharmacies will ask patients to fill out a short medical assessment to ensure safety.
In this health centre article, we’ll take a look at one of the newly reclassified contraceptives, the Hana desogestrel mini pill.
What is the Hana mini pill?
The Hana mini pill is a hormonal contraceptive containing an artificial progestogen hormone that imitates the female sex hormone progesterone. This chemical, desogestrel, works in three ways. Firstly, it prevents an egg from being released during the ovulation phase of the menstrual cycle. Secondly, it thickens the cervix lining which makes it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg. Lastly, by reducing the lining of the uterus, it’s more difficult for a fertilised egg to implant itself.
Progestogen-only pills have been used since the 80s for birth control, and the treatment itself is chemically nothing new. With decades-worth of testing and public use having proven these contraceptives to be very safe and effective, Hana now enables better access to all eligible women of child-bearing age.
How effective is the mini pill?
One of the factors that most likely contributed to the decision to reclassify this desogestrel mini pill is it’s efficacy. Taken correctly, the Hana mini pill is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, according to the NHS. However, general use of the treatment pust the average effectiveness closer to 91%. The reason for this is due to human error in forgetting to take the pill, or by reduced absorption of the pill if ill with diarrhoea or vomiting. If you’re ill when taking Hana, refer to the accompanying patient leaflet as this outlines how to ensure the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill even if you’re unwell.
What’s the difference between the mini pill and the combined pill?
The difference between these two oral contraceptive methods is the hormonal makeup of the pills. The mini pill only contains progestogen, whilst the combined pill contains both progestogen and oestrogen. Despite this, both the combined pill and the Hana desogestrel mini pill prevent pregnancy in the same three ways previously mentioned in this article.
A benefit of the combined pill is helping to regulate periods that have been irregular, and some combined pills also help to reduce acne. However, the side effects can sometimes be more pronounced with the combined pill, not to mention there are a number of factors that your doctor might discourage the use of the combined pill based on. These include if you have just given birth, if you are older than 35 and smoke, or if you have poorly controlled high blood pressure.
Who is the mini pill best suited for?
One of the core advantages of the mini pill is that it’s safe for women who have certain health conditions that the combined pill would not be suitable for, such as the factors mentioned above. The mini pill is also less likely to interfere with breastfeeding than the combined pill, and can more markedly reduce risk of endometrial cancer. It can be used at any age over 16, and is perfect for women that can’t take oestrogen for whatever reason.
The Hana pill is not suitable for women who are pregnant, have sex-steroid sensitive cancer like breast cancer, or have had blood clots in the legs or lungs.