One of your most frequently asked questions is about the possible side effects of the contraceptive pill. We totally understand, whenever you’re taking a new medicine you want to know as much as possible about what it is, how it works and what to expect. That’s why we created #AskHana, a hub where you can find answers to the most frequently asked questions about the pill. So, let’s talk about side effects.
Like any medicine, a contraceptive pill can come with side effects, but these will differ from person to person.
Whether you’re already taking a contraceptive pill, or are looking to start using one, knowing what to expect can help you to decide whether it is right for you. If you’re looking for a progestogen-only pill that you can get online or in a pharmacy without a prescription, you might be considering using Hana. A pharmacist will ask you some questions (or you will have an online version of this consultation) before deciding whether Hana is suitable for you.
Let’s start right at the beginning. We often refer simply to ‘The Pill’ (and everyone knows what we mean) but this is misleading as there are actually two types of contraceptive pills.
There is the combined pill, which contains oestrogen and progestogen, and the progestogen-only pill (otherwise known as the mini pill) which only contains progestogen.The two types of pill have been shown to be equally effective when taken correctly.
Some people can’t take pills containing oestrogen for medical reasons so choose the progestogen-only pill. The side effects that you do or don’t experience while taking any form of contraception may be part of that decision.
So what are the side effects of mini pills like Hana?
What is Hana?
Hana is a progestogen-only pill (or mini pill) that helps prevent pregnancy by working to consistently inhibit ovulation and alter your cervical mucus. It contains the active ingredient desogestrel.
Hana is over 99% effective when used correctly – that means taking your pill at the same time each day with no break between packs. No other contraceptive pill is more effective.*
*Verify at Hana.co.uk/verify
Who can use Hana?
Hana can be suitable for a wide range of people and your pharmacist will need to ask you some questions to check that it is suitable for you. If you buy Hana online, you will fill out an online version of this questionnaire. If you want to check out the questions in advance, have a look here.
Your pharmacist will ask you a series of questions to see whether Hana is suitable for you. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are thinking of using Hana.
- Hana may be taken while breastfeeding.
- Hana may be suitable for smokers over the age of 35 and people with high blood pressure.
- Hana might be suitable for people who cannot take the combined pills containing oestrogen due to underlying health conditions that are affected by oestrogen.
- For Hana to be most effective, you should take it at the same time every day. It’s really important that you remember to take your pill on time. For more information about what to do if you miss a pill, you can check the leaflet that comes inside your pack of Hana or view it online here.
It’s important to remember that contraceptive pills cannot protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs.) Barrier methods, such as condoms, are the only way to reduce your risk, so you should use them when having sex with a new partner or partners.
What Are the Common Side Effects of Hana?
Hana is a mini pill containing desogestrel. Hana is generally well tolerated, but like all medicines, Hana can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them.
You can read a detailed guide to Hana, how to use it and any side effects that can occur, in the package leaflet that comes with your pill, or view an online version here.
Deborah Evans, a pharmacist and sexual health advocate**, says: “If you are concerned about the side effects of taking Hana or have more questions, don’t be afraid to ask your pharmacist anything before you choose to use it.”
Common (affecting up to 1 in 10 people)
- Irregular menstruation or amenorrhoea (no periods)
- Altered mood
- Depressed mood
- Decreased libido (sex drive)
- Breast tenderness
- Weight gain
How Does Hana Affect Your Period?
The most common side effect of Hana is changes to your menstrual cycle. Changes to your period may occur but they tend to calm down after a few months of using Hana.
- If you notice changes to your periods you do not need to take any action, just continue taking Hana as directed even if you start to experience these changes:
- Irregular periods (meaning your periods are more or less frequent, shorter or longer, lighter or heavier)
- Spotting or bleeding when you are not on your period (this may be very slight staining which will not require a pad, or heavier bleeding like a light period)
- Your periods stop completely
- Between 20 and 30% of people using Hana report having heavier or more frequent periods. Around 20% experience less bleeding or may have no periods at all. This is also known as amenorrhea. You may find that your period returns to normal after a couple of months. This is because your menstrual cycle is adjusting to Hana.
- If you experience menstrual changes that you find concerning or frequent/more regular bleeding which doesn’t settle down, you should visit your doctor to discuss this. They’ll make sure that there is no other reason for the bleeding. These changes might include:
- Your period differs from what you would expect with Hana
- Your period is more frequent than you find acceptable
- Your period is unusually heavy
- You repeatedly experience bleeding after sex
- If you observe these changes to your period, and you go on to seek help from a healthcare professional, you should still continue taking Hana every day as usual.
For any more information, check the leaflet that comes with your packet of Hana, or read the online version of this leaflet here.
How can Hana affect your mood?
How can contraceptive pills containing desogestrel like Hana affect your mood? Less than one in ten people with uteruses who take Hana® may experience an altered mood or depressed mood. When it comes to anxiety and depression, it can be hard to tell what the root cause is.
Some people who take contraceptive pills may experience anxiety, but it’s hard to say that the pill caused the anxiety, as it could also have been caused by a mental health condition, stressful life events, changes in lifestyle, unresolved traumas or any number of other factors. If you are concerned about how contraceptive pills might affect your mood, please speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
If you are in therapy or taking any medication, speak to your mental health professional about how hormonal contraception might impact you. Some medications can make contraceptive pills less effective, so make sure that you inform the pharmacist or doctor about any existing medications you are taking so they can help you make the right choice for you.
If you are concerned that your contraceptive pill is having a negative effect on your mood, talk to your pharmacist or doctor as soon as possible. You may find that you have a different experience with another contraceptive pill, or another form of contraception.
What are the lesson common side effects of Hana?
These are the uncommon, rare and serious side effects of taking Hana.
Uncommon (affecting up to 1 in 100)
- Vaginal infection
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Dysmenorrhoea (painful periods)
- Ovarian cysts
- Hair loss
Rare (These may affect up to 1 in 1,000 women)
- Painful blue-red skin lumps (erythema nodosum)
If you get any side effects talk to your doctor or pharmacist. You can also report side effects via the Yellow Card Scheme at: www.mhra.gov.uk/yellowcard or the MHRA Yellow Card app in Google Play or Apple App Store.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects are rare, but if you experience any of the following symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately.
- Severe allergic reactions
- You may experience signs of a severe allergic reaction (hypersensitivity) including:
- Swollen face, lips, tongue and/or throat
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Rarely, women taking Hana have had an ectopic pregnancy, where the baby develops outside the womb. Symptoms might include:
- A sudden or severe pain in the lower abdomen or stomach area with or without vaginal bleeding
Women taking some hormonal contraceptive pills are at increased risk of blood clots . Symptoms might include:
- Swelling, redness or pain in the leg
- Chest pain, breathlessness or coughing up blood
You should get medical advice immediately if you experience any of these side effects.
Getting help with your side effects
Although Hana’s side effects are often mild, you don’t have to manage them on your own. If you’re struggling to manage any side effects or are concerned about them, you should speak to your pharmacist or doctor.
If your side effects persist then it may be worth considering an alternative method of contraception.
If you experience any side effects that we haven’t mentioned when taking Hana you should speak to your pharmacist or doctor as soon as possible. If you can, try to make a note of what you experienced and when, as this will help them make an assessment.
If you’re struggling with the side effects, you may wish to try out a few different pills before finding the one that works for you. You can also report side effects directly via the national reporting system at www.mhra.gov.uk/yellowcard or via the app MHRA Yellow Card, available in Google Play or Apple App Store.
Find out more about Hana, an over-the-counter progestogen-only pill available without prescription, here.
Hana® 75μg film-coated tablets contains desogestrel and is an oral contraception for women of child bearing age and people with uteruses to prevent pregnancy. Always read the instructions on the package leaflet carefully.
*verify at Hana.co.uk/verify
**Deborah Evans does not endorse any pharmaceutical brands or products.