Microlut, also known as the mini pill, is an oral contraceptive pill that is used to prevent pregnancy. Unlike the combined pill, which has both estrogen and progestogen in it, Microlut only has progestogen, making it a good choice for women who want to take hormonal birth control but can’t be exposed to extra estrogen in their bodies.
Because Microlut is available by prescription only in Australia, it’s important to understand how it works and how to best use it for your particular needs.
Microlut is a progestogen-only pill that contains 30 mcg of levonorgestrel. Commonly referred to as the mini pill, Microlut is prescribed for women who want to prevent pregnancy but shouldn’t be taking extra estrogen, such as breastfeeding mothers and women who have a history of blood clots or strokes.
Microlut works to prevent pregnancy by thickening the cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to enter the womb and reach any eggs that may have been released. At the same time, it thins the uterine lining to prevent implantation of fertilised eggs. In some women, the mini pill also prevents ovulation from happening in the first place.
Each pack of Microlut contains 28 active pills. There are no sugar pills like with the combined oral contraceptive pill.
It’s important to take Microlut exactly as prescribed. Take one whole tablet at the exact same time each day in order to ensure your body always has the same level of hormones. Continue taking the mini pill each day, even when you have your period.
Unlike the combined pill which has a bit more wiggle room with timing and missed pills, the Microlut mini pill only has a 3 hour window for you to take your missed pill in order to effectively protect against pregnancy.
If it’s been longer than 3 hours since your missed pill, you should still take the pill, but also use backup forms of contraception like condoms for at least 3 days.
In general, taking hormonal birth control pills can help with acne. However, Microlut only contains progestogen, which means that it doesn’t have any effect on improving acne. In order for the birth control pill to improve acne, it needs to contain both estrogen and progestogen to help decrease the amount of androgens circulating in your body, and in turn, decrease the production of acne-causing sebum.
The most common side effect of the mini pill is irregular menstrual bleeding. Some women stop getting periods altogether, while others experience more frequent and heavier periods or less frequent and lighter cycles.
Women on progestogen-only formulations (the mini pill) tend to not have regular periods. Your cycle can be unpredictable, ranging from not having a period at all to frequent regular spotting or bleeding. While this is a known common side effect of the mini pill, it does not necessarily indicate that the contraceptive method is not effective.
When taken correctly, the mini pill is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This means you are taking it at the exact same time every single day and haven’t done anything that would affect the pill’s absorption in your body (such as vomiting, diarrhea or taking other medications that interfere with the pill).
However, more typical use of the mini pill brings that effectiveness rate down to about 92%.
Because you only have a 3 hour window before a pill is considered missed, it is super important to be diligent about taking your pill at the same time each day. If you’ve had sex on a day that you missed a pill, you might need the morning after pill. Talk to your doctor if you think you need to access emergency contraception.
Like any prescription medication, there are some side effects of Microlut you should be aware of. As mentioned earlier, one of the most common side effects of the mini pill is irregular vaginal bleeding.
Other mild side effects include:
- Stomach pain together with bleeding
- Headache, including migraines
- Mood changes, including depression
- Breast tenderness or pain.
More serious side effects are uncommon but can include:
- Pain in the chest, arm or below the breastbone
- Back pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling, pain or tenderness of one leg
- Sudden weakness, numbness or bad ‘pins and needles’ of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Severe, sudden stomach pains
- Blood clots
- Breast lumps
If you experience any of the above, call 000 immediately. For breast lumps, review with your doctor as soon as possible.
The mini pill is a great option for women who shouldn’t be taking extra estrogen. However, there are some downsides to consider when comparing the mini pill to the combined pill.
One key disadvantage of the mini pill is the unpredictable bleeding that differs from woman to woman. Some women will benefit from lighter and shorter periods like women who take the combined pill, and some might stop getting their periods altogether. However, other women will experience heavier and longer periods, or have breakthrough bleeding and spotting on a regular basis.
Another disadvantage of the mini pill compared to the combined pill is how precise you need to be when taking your tablet at the same time each day. The window before a pill is considered missed is only 3 hours for the mini pill versus 24 hours for the combined pill.
However, many women find success with the Microlut mini pill. It’s very safe and generally has few side effects that last beyond the first few months. It’s also the ideal choice for women who can’t have estrogen: breastfeeding mothers, women with a history of blood clots, stroke or migraines with visual symptoms, women who smoke and older women.
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∙ Microlut leaflet (July 2017)
Product MICROLUT levonorgestrel 30 mcg tablet blister pack is registered in the ARTG, AUST R