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What is the desogestrel only pill?

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Did you know that you can now buy the contraceptive pill over the counter in pharmacies and online? Two new brands, Hana and Lovima, have become available without a prescription, making it easier than ever to get the birth control you need, when you need it.

Both Hana and Lovima are progestogen-only or “mini” pills, and both contain the synthetic hormone desogestrel. To learn more about desogestrel works, and how to take this type of pill correctly, read on for a simple guide.

What does desogestrel do?

Desogestrel is a type of progestogen, a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone.

There are a few different types of progestogen and they can all prevent pregnancy by thickening the mucus in the cervix, which stops sperm from reaching an egg. Desogestrel has the added benefit that it can prevent ovulation. To have this effect, however, desogestrel must be taken every day.

How is the desogestrel pill different to other types of contraceptive pill?

There are two main types of contraceptive pill:

  • Combined – this type contains synthetic oestrogen and progestogen
  • Progestogen-only or “mini” – this type only contains progestogen

Most women who use the contraceptive pill use a combined pill. This type is typically taken for three weeks before having a break of seven days, during which time you have a period. The progestogen-only pill is taken continuously, with no break, and most types need to be taken within the same three-hour window each day. Make sure to read the information leaflet inside your pack carefully for more instructions.

Like other types of the mini pill, the desogestrel pill needs to be taken every single day, with no breaks. However, it can be taken within a 12-hour (rather than three-hour) window. It’s also available without a prescription in pharmacies under the brand names Hana and Lovima.

How often do I have to take the desogestrel pill?

If you’re using the desogestrel pill for birth control, you need to take one tablet every single day at around the same time. Make sure to read the patient information leaflet carefully before you begin taking the pill.

To be effective, it should be taken within 12 hours of the same time each day. For example, if you take your pill at 8am one morning, you should aim to take your next pill by 8pm the next day.

When you finish one pack of pills, you should start the next pack the following day.

How long do I have to take desogestrel before I’m protected against pregnancy?

Generally, after starting the desogestrel pill, you need to take it for two days before you’re protected against pregnancy. If you start taking the pill on days 1 to 5 of your menstrual cycle then you’re immediately protected. 

What happens if I miss one of my desogestrel pills?

If you’ve forgotten to take your desogestrel pill, but you’re still within the 12-hour window, you should take it as soon as you remember. You should then take your next pill as normal, even if this means taking two pills in one day.

If you’ve forgotten to take your desogestrel pill, and you’re not within the 12-hour window, you won’t be protected against pregnancy. In this instance you should do the following:

  • Take one pill as soon as you remember (don’t take more than this even if you’ve missed more than one)
  • Take your next pill at the normal time and continue taking them as normal
  • For two days use extra contraception like condoms

Does desogestrel stop your periods?

Hormonal contraception affects every woman differently. Some find that the progestogen-only pill makes their periods lighter or that they even stop altogether. Others find that their periods become more frequent, or that they experience spotting in between periods.

It’s thought that desogestrel is more likely to cause amenorrhoea (a stop to your periods) than other types of the mini pill, but this will be temporary. Once you stop taking it, your periods should return to normal.

What are the side effects of desogestrel?

As with any medication, there are some side effects associated with the desogestrel pill, including:

  • Mood changes
  • Decrease in sex drive
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Acne
  • Breast pain
  • Irregular or stopped periods
  • Weight gain

Not all women will experience these kinds of side effects, and those who do should find that symptoms improve after the first few months.

If you’re worried about how your pill is affecting you, speak to your GP or visit a contraception clinic as there should be a type of contraception that’s better for you.

Where can I get the desogestrel pill?

You can get the desogestrel pill on prescription or over the counter:

  • On prescription means you’ve spoken to a doctor and been approved for that treatment by them – in the UK, all contraception prescribed by a doctor or nurse is free.
  • Over the counter means you’ve been approved for that treatment by a pharmacist – this is usually quicker than getting it on prescription, as it doesn’t require any kind of appointment. However, it generally isn’t free.

If you’d like to get the desogestrel pill over the counter, you can pop into your nearest LloydsPharmacy or order through our website. The two types of desogestrel pill that have been approved as over-the-counter contraception are Hana and Lovima.

If you’d like a different type of desogestrel pill, or if you’d like to try another progestogen-only or combined pill, you can use our trusted prescription service, Online Doctor. We stock a range of contraceptive pills, as well as the patch and ring, which can all be safely approved for use by our in-house clinicians.

Lastly, you can visit your GP or a contraception clinic for a free prescription of the desogestrel pill, or to get advice about other types of contraception. Remember, there are lots of alternatives to the pill, including the IUD coil and implant.

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