The UK medicines regulator (MHRA) announced that 2 brands of the mini pill – Lovima and Hana – will be available over the counter from July 2021. In this post, we answer your questions about the mini pill, why it is now available over the counter, and how you can buy it.

What is the Mini Pill?

The mini pill is a contraceptive pill used to prevent pregnancy. It is a progestogen-only pill (POP). This means that the mini pill only contains progestogen and doesn’t contain any oestrogen, unlike another type of contraceptive pill called combined pills. Commonly prescribed mini pill brands in the UK include Noriday, Cerelle and Cerazette.

How Does the Mini Pill Work?

The pills work by thickening the mucus in the cervix to stop sperm from reaching an egg. Mini pills with desogestrel as the active ingredient also work by stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulation).

The mini pill is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy if taken correctly. However, under real-life conditions, it’s thought to be around 92% effective. This takes into account things like missing a pill, taking medicines that affect the pill and vomiting/diarrhoea making it less effective.

One pill is taken once a day at around the same time of day, and there’s no need to take a break between packs. It’s important to take it at the same time every day; missing a pill can make it less effective at preventing pregnancy.

The side effects of contraceptive pills are often mild, though they can be more serious in rare cases. The most common side effects of birth control pills include headaches, weight gain, nausea and mood swings.

The mini pill should not be confused with the emergency contraceptive pill (also known as Plan B or the Morning After Pill). Emergency contraception isn’t taken daily; it should only be used within three days after unprotected sex.

Why is the Mini Pill Available Over the Counter?

The MHRA (body that regulates UK medicine) found that allowing women to buy the mini pill (Lovima and Hana) over the counter would provide a “valuable additional option to women enabling easier access to a safe and effective contraceptive”. It concluded that:

  • pharmacists can assess whether a mini pill is suitable for a patient after a consultation
  • mini pills are safe for many women to take.

Only two brands of desogestrel mini pills in the UK have been made available over the counter. These two brands, Hana and Lovima, were specifically assessed by the MHRA at the drug manufacturers’ request. This doesn’t mean that other contraceptive pills that are prescribed by doctors are unsafe, but they do require a prescription before being supplied.

How Can I Buy the Over the Counter Mini Pill?

The Hana and Lovima mini pills can be bought over the counter at pharmacies, but only after a consultation with the pharmacist. The pharmacist will ask you about your medical history and any medicines you currently take.

You can also buy mini pills online from registered online pharmacies in the UK. We offer both mini pills (Lovima and Hana) from our online pharmacy service. 

Both over the counter pills are available in 28 day packs or 3 month packs of tablets.


See our wide selection of contraceptive pill brands online


Is There a Difference Between Hana and Lovima?

Both brands are desogestrel mini pills, and both contain 75 micrograms of desogestrel. The key difference between the products is that Lovima contains soya bean oil whereas Hana does not. This means that Lovima should not be taken by women with soya or peanut allergy. Because Hana does not contain soya bean oil, it is safe for women with soya or peanut allergy to take.

Taking the Mini Pill

Regardless of the type of pill, the mini pill is taken every day with no break in between packs or blisters. Many women use it as a long term form of contraception. It’s important to take your pill at the same time every day. Missing a pill may mean it’s less effective at preventing pregnancy.

Being more than 3 hours late taking a mini pill is usually considered a missed dose or missed pill. However, for desogestrel mini pills being more than 12 hours late is considered a missed pill. You should always check the leaflet that comes with your pill to see the missed dose advice specific to that product.

See the patient information leaflet for Hana or Lovima to read about starting the pill and the possible mini pill side effects. If you are not currently taking hormonal contraception, you should try to take your first tablet on day 1 of your period. This means you are protected from pregnancy without needing to use additional contraception. If you take your first tablet on days 2 – 5 of your period, you should use another form of contraception (such as condoms) for the next 7 days.

Mini Pill v. Combined Pill

The mini pill is a progestogen-only pill. The combined contraceptive pill contains progestogen and oestrogen. Because the combined pill contains oestrogen, it does have some differences from the mini pill.

Taking oestrogens may not be suitable for some women, such as those aged over 35 who smoke. However, women who can’t take oestrogens can take the mini pill instead.

The mini pill can be taken by women who are currently breastfeeding, but the combined pill is not recommended for breastfeeding women.


    • The mini pill is a progestogen-only pill which has long-term usage and is a form of contraception to prevent pregnancy
    • They can be prescribed or are available over the counter, as Lovima and Hana
    • Discuss with your doctor or pharmacist to find the best contraceptive pill for you


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