Progestogen-Only Pills: Major Advantages And Disadvantages

progestogen-only pills

The Progestogen-only pills contain progesterone hormone for contraception. These do not have estrogen hormones as in combination with birth control pills. This medication has a huge set of benefits for females. But also have a few drawbacks. In the below post, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of progestin-only pills.

Advantages of Progestogen-only Pills

Progestogen-only pills have several benefits for women. This is why many prefer it as birth control. You can take the tablet orally with water at the same time every day. So, if you can remember to consume the pill once a day, then this contraceptive is perfect for you.

This medicine has an efficacy rate of up to 94%. Though the success rate is lower than the combined birth control pill, the advantages outweigh the risks. As it is a hormonal contraceptive, you may have to follow a few directions of use to get the best out of the product. But otherwise, the pills are safe to take.

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Here are some of the advantages of progestogen-only pills that you must know:

No Estrogen

The tablet has less amount of progestogen than that in combined birth control pills. Thus, the medication is good for those with an intolerance to estrogen hormone. This hormone also causes higher side effects. It may disrupt the milk production in breastfeeding women.

So, you can choose progestogen-only pills if you have health issues and yet want a contraceptive. Also, in certain medical emergencies, progesterone contraceptive pills work better for females. Some of the conditions wherein, progestin-only pills are excellent as birth control methods are:

  • If you have past or current breast cancer
  • Diabetes and related complications, especially if you are 20 years old or more
  • In the first month postpartum
  • Poorly controlled hypertension
  • A chain smoker
  • Migraines
  • Possibility of immobilization because of a surgery
  • Current/past arterial disease – cerebrovascular accidents (strokes) or myocardial infarction
    VTE (venous thromboembolism) such as calf deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism

Can Use During Breastfeeding

Progesterone-only pills are safe to take during breastfeeding. This is because it does not suppress breast milk production. So, if you want to choose hormonal contraception after childbirth and breastfeeding, this is a good alternative to go ahead with.

Independent of Timing for Sexual Intercourse

You may use barrier birth control methods such as cervical caps, condoms, or spermicide, etc. But then you have to utilize these before and during the intercourse. However, progestogen-only pills are independent of timing and act of intimacy. You need to take the pills as per the doctor’s indications.

Take the pill each day at a fixed time. The consumption timing has no link or relation with sexual activity. So, you can remain carefree and explore a good time with your partner. There is no worry of thinking about a contraceptive when you are in the act.

Suitable at Any Age

One of the benefits of progestogen-only pills is that women of any age group can take them. The pills may suit teenagers as well as adults. Even females of 35 years of age and above can use it up to menopause time. It does not usually cause any health complications in older women.

Also, females using combined oral contraceptives but are now over 35 years of age, can switch to progestin birth control. Even heavy smokers can utilize this medicine.

Improves Menstrual Condition

With the aid of POP, you may feel a positive difference in your menstrual condition. If you use these birth control pills continuously (not cyclic), then there is the benefit of amenorrhea. Some of the conditions that the medication may manage are:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms linked to the menstrual cycle
  • Migraines associated with menstruation
  • Iron-deficiency anemia
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Menorrhagia
  • Irregular menses
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Endometriosis
  • Coagulation defects related to menses
  • Premenstrual syndrome

Emergency Contraception

If you want to use progestogen-only pills for emergency contraception (EC), you can do so. You can use EC with POP within 72 hours of having unprotected intercourse. The tablet will delay or prevent ovulation. Thus, the ovaries may not release eggs, and implantation will not happen.

Do not delay taking the medicine after 72 hours of intercourse. Otherwise, the pills may not work efficiently. This may increase the risk of pregnancy. So, follow your doctor’s prescription if you wish to use POP for EC purposes.

Disadvantages of Progestogen-only Pills

Every medication has its own set of pros and cons. For some, a particular medicine may suit the health. But for others, it may not. How perfect medicine is for a person depends on several factors. It is subjective and from case to case, the benefits and drawbacks also differ.

Similarly, for progestogen-only pills, the efficacy data is not the same for everyone. For several women, the pill is less effective. Or, we can say, the medicine has certain restrictions on usage. You must also overcome a few myths about birth control pills for the correct use of the product.

The progestin pills may also have a few side effects. But these are rare. And once your body adjusts to the dose of the hormone, these symptoms do not bother you anymore. Below mentioned are a few disadvantages or precautions to taking progestogen-only pills.

Daily Intake at Exact Time

You have to take the birth control pill daily. Also, you must consume the medication at the same time every day. So, you have to remember the time daily as to when to take the tablet. The efficacy of the medicine thus depends on how well you remember the time of intake.

The newer versions of progestogen-only pills have desogestrel. This ingredient gives a margin of 12 hours. So, even if you forget to take the tablet, take it within the window period of 12 hours. Earlier POP offered a window period of 3 hours.

Disruption of Menstrual Cycle

You cannot expect to get regular menstruation. Though the birth control pill will ensure withdrawal bleeding, you may experience irregular bleeding sometimes. Other possible encounters are light spotting, amenorrhea, menorrhagia for the initial few months. These may happen till the body gets used to the medication dose.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Many believe that progestogen-only pills can protect against STIs (sexually transmitted infections). However, this is not true. The medicine can only stop a pregnancy from taking place. It does not affect whatsoever stopping the spread of any sexual disease or infection.

For protection against STIs, you must use a barrier method of contraception. The safest non-hormonal barrier method is a condom. Both male and female condoms can do the job. However, male condoms are more efficient in preventing the spread of infections.

Side Effects

Like any other hormonal birth control methods, progestogen-only pills also have a few side effects. As discussed, the effects are common. Not every female user experiences these. Also, the encounters fade away after a few months pass. The body learns to cope up with the new medicine.

After this, there are fewer or no side effects. Here are a few symptoms you can expect on taking the progestin pills for the first few times:

  • Acne
  • Low libido
  • Breast enlargement or tenderness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Changes in weight
  • Mood swings
  • A small increase in breast cancer risk
  • Risk to follicular ovarian cysts because of abnormal follicle maturation

Contraindications

In some cases, females must not take progestogen-only pills as it can further worsen their health. The contraindications include a history of breast cancer, risk of VTE if using drospirenone/desogestrel, current or past cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease, systemic lupus erythematosus tested positive for antiphospholipid antibodies, severe hepatic tumours, cirrhosis.

Interactions

In some cases, it is unsafe for women to continue taking progestogen-only pills for birth control. This is true for females on liver enzyme-inducing medicines such as barbiturates or phenytoin. Or, those on St. John’s Wort may also not get expected results from using the progestin pills.

Females must avoid this birth control pill if on antiretroviral therapy, anticonvulsants, or antibiotics that induce liver enzymes. These medications may disrupt the process of breaking down and absorption of key elements of the contraceptive pills.

Ectopic Pregnancy

In a normal pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. It grows and nourishes here. However, in an ectopic pregnancy, the location of implantation is not the uterus. It is usually in the fallopian tubes, near the cervix, or in an inappropriate place. Ectopic pregnancies are life-threatening.

You need to terminate such a pregnancy. Continuing it can cause grievous injury, profuse bleeding, and death. When taking progestogen-only pills, there is a slight risk to pregnancy outside the uterus if you conceive. This is not a time possibility. Yet if you miss periods regularly, get a pregnancy test.

Final Thoughts

Progestogen-only pills for birth control have their unique pros and cons. These are primarily beneficial for women who do not want to take combination oral contraceptives. Also, breastfeeding females, or those of 35 years and over can benefit from these in many ways. So, weigh the pros and cons and make your choice of contraceptive pills.

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