You probably felt a few changes when you started taking birth control pills, like nausea or tender breasts. So it makes sense that you may feel different again when you stop taking them.
Any type of hormone-based birth control can change how you feel, whether it’s pills, the patch, a vaginal ring (Annovera, NuvaRing), hormonal IUDs (Kyleena, Liletta, Mirena, Skyla), injections (Depo-Provera) or an implanted rod (Nexplanon). Everybody’s different, and some of the effects you notice might depend on symptoms you had before you started taking the pill. But a few changes are common:
1. You could get pregnant. And before you say, “Duh,” keep in mind that it could happen sooner than you think. Many women think it takes a long time to conceive after they stop the pill, but research shows pregnancy rates are about the same as those for women who had used barrier methods (like condoms). Up to 96% of former pill-users got pregnant within a year. And in one study, more than half were pregnant at 6 months. But it may take more time — up to a year — after you stop injections like Depo-Provera.
2. Your cycle may get wacky. Even if your periods were like clockwork before you started birth control, it might take a few months for them to straighten out after you stop. And if you had irregular periods, you’ll probably be off-kilter again — the reliable schedule you enjoyed (or the long breaks between periods) came from the hormones in the pill. If your periods stopped altogether, it may take a few months for them to start up again.
3. Your periods could be heavier and crampier. If you had lots of bleeding and pain before you started, it’s likely your problems will return. But if you started as a teenager and now you’re in your late 30s or 40s, you may not go back to that kind of heavy flow.
4. PMS may come back, too. The pill, especially some formulas, helps your body level out the hormonal chaos that can make you feel depressed, anxious, and irritable. Without that balancing, you may start feeling moody again.
- What Happens When you Stop Taking Birth Control
- What Happens When You Stop Taking Birth Control?
- Does it take a long time for birth control hormones to leave the body?
- Is it possible to get pregnant immediately after stopping hormonal birth control?
- How does stopping birth control affect menstruation?
- Can stopping the pill or other forms of hormonal birth control cause a change in appearance?
- Stopping birth control can also change vitamin D levels.
- Do you need a birth control cleanse?
- What to expect in a post-hormonal birth control world
- To cleanse or not to cleanse? Quick answer: It’s unnecessary.
- Hormonal birth control + fertility
- When to bring in the pros
- What Happens When You Stop Taking Birth Control Pills?
- The Effects of Stopping the Pill
- When to Stop Taking Birth Control Pills
- What Are the Risks of Stopping Pills Mid-Pack?
- Why Stop Birth Control Pills Mid-Pack?
- What Does Stopping Birth Control Pills Mid-Pack Do to Your Body?
- How Can You Treat the Symptoms of Stopping Birth Control Mid-Pack?
- 1. You might get some pimples.
- 2. You might feel hornier.
- 3. Or, the opposite.
- 4. Your period will change.
- 5. You might be moody.
- 6. You might gain or lose weight.
- 7. You might get fewer headaches.
- 8. You might lose some hair—or get it back.
- 9. You might not get pregnant right away.
- 10. Sex might feel more pleasurable.
- What happens when you stop taking the pill
- What to do if you forget to take the pill
- When to use protection if you miss a pill
- Contraception options
- Coming off the pill and fertility
- Coming off the pill and pregnancy
- How to tell if you are pregnant
- Sexual health resources
What Happens When you Stop Taking Birth Control
What Happens When You Stop Taking Birth Control?
Many women start taking birth control in their teens and may continue taking it for a decade or more. One of the biggest reasons a woman may stop taking birth control is to conceive. But hormonal birth control methods such as the pill, IUD, patch, ring, and injections all use a combination of hormones to prevent fertilization. So what happens when someone stops taking hormonal birth control? First, it takes a while for hormone levels to return to baseline, and women who stop taking birth control pills will experience an array of different symptoms before fertility levels return to normal. Stopping non-hormonal birth control, such as copper IUDs, or cervical caps will not cause any of the following symptoms or changes.
Does it take a long time for birth control hormones to leave the body?
For most women, it will take at least a few days for hormone levels to return to normal after they stop taking most forms of hormonal birth control. The only exception to this is the birth control shot. The shot is designed to deliver three months worth of protection with one injection. For women who use the birth control shot, it can take anywhere between three and six months for the body to completely rid itself of birth control hormones.
Is it possible to get pregnant immediately after stopping hormonal birth control?
Yes, it’s definitely possible to get pregnant right after stopping hormonal birth control. After a woman stops taking the pill, injections, patch or has an IUD or ring removed, the hormones stop working immediately. Depending on where she is in her cycle, it’s possible to ovulate and become pregnant after intercourse. For women who are stopping hormonal birth control for reasons other than becoming pregnant, it’s a good idea to use barrier methods such as condoms to prevent fertilization.
On the other hand, it’s also possible that it may take a few months after stopping hormonal birth control to get pregnant. It’s impossible for women to know exactly how their bodies will react after coming off the pill or other hormonal contraception. For women who want to become pregnant, they may need to wait up to four months before ovulation occurs. This is especially true if a woman stops taking the birth control shot.
How does stopping birth control affect menstruation?
Hormonal birth control works in two different ways to prevent pregnancy. It prevents ovulation and also causes the uterus to become inhospitable to implantation by thinning out the endometrium. Once a woman stops taking hormonal birth control, ovulation eventually returns to normal, and the uterus begins to grow a thicker lining for better chances of implantation. Anytime a woman uses birth control to manipulate ovulation, menstruation is also affected. Stopping birth control can affect menstruation in different ways.
It can take a few months before a woman starts to see regular periods as hormone levels adjust and ovulation begins to occur on a predictable cycle. Spotting, lighter, or even heavier periods that last longer or shorter than normal can happen during the time it takes for the body to become acclimated to different hormone levels. But if a woman does not get a period for several months after stopping birth control, it’s possible that something else is going on and she will need to see a doctor.
Although hormonal birth control is incredibly effective at preventing unintended pregnancy, that is not the only reason that women use birth control. Birth control is also used for medical purposes and to prevent painful, distressing symptoms associated with menstruation and fluctuating hormones. After stopping birth control, women will often see a return of these symptoms, such as increased acne, cramps, and PMS. But in some cases, birth control can cause symptoms such as headaches, bloating, or even weight gain. Stopping birth control can reverse these symptoms that tend to show up around the time a woman gets her period.
But, every woman is different. For women who started taking birth control in their teens and have used it consistently for many years, their periods may be completely different than what they experienced as a teenager before starting birth control.
Can stopping the pill or other forms of hormonal birth control cause a change in appearance?
Some forms of birth control can cause weight gain and also an increase in breast size. Stopping the pill or other forms of hormonal birth control that caused these side effects can lead to weight loss and also a decrease in breast size.
Also, it is possible for women who stop taking the pill to lose or gain hair. Some forms of birth control have higher levels of certain hormones that cause hair to fall out more slowly than usual. Once birth control is stopped, hair can start to fall out at increased rates for about six months after stopping the pill. For women who had hair loss related to hormonal imbalances before starting the pill, stopping the pill can cause this condition to return.
Stopping birth control can also lead to an increase in androgen hormones. These hormones can cause coarse, dark hair to grow on the face, chest, or back.
Stopping birth control can also change vitamin D levels.
After going off the pill, some women will find that their vitamin D levels decrease. Low levels of vitamin D can lead to bone density issues, and also lower immunity, increased rates of depression, and also cause tiredness and fatigue. For women who wish to get pregnant, having high vitamin D levels is critical for maintaining a healthy pregnancy. It’s a good idea to start taking a high-quality vitamin D supplement after coming off birth control to prevent this side effect.
Every woman responds differently to hormonal birth control, and coming off birth control will affect women in different ways as well. As always, it’s important to have a good relationship with your doctor in case the side effects of coming off birth control cause distressing or uncomfortable symptoms and you may need to switch prescriptions or methods.
Disclaimer:The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Pandia Health, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.
Do you need a birth control cleanse?
You’re having a lovely evening perusing Instagram. Maybe you’re looking for something specific (in my case, cool wallpaper and/or cat pictures), or maybe you’re procrastinating (looking for cool wallpaper and/or cat pictures). Because you’re on Instagram and it’s way too easy to find things that you weren’t actually searching for but happen to be trending right now, you’re suddenly seeing posts about birth control detox or birth control cleanses. Both refer to the process of stopping hormonal contraceptives like pills or the IUD. You might choose to do this in order to start trying to get pregnant, or because you want those hormones out of your system.
But what actually happens when you stop taking hormonal birth control? Do you need to do a cleanse in order to reset your hormones, hormone balance, and uterine health? What does that even mean? Whether you’re thinking about going off hormonal birth control now or sometime in the future, here’s what you should know.
What to expect in a post-hormonal birth control world
Okay, first, let’s break it down: What happens when you’re taking hormonal birth control, and what happens when you stop taking it?
Take birth control pills, for example. The pill stops you from ovulating (although it depends on which birth control pills you’re on) with synthetic hormones like progestin and synthetic estrogen. No ovulation, no egg released — nothing’s available to join up with any sperm that happens to enter your body, so no pregnancy. But once you stop taking the pill, then what? (Besides the fact that you’re at risk of getting pregnant if you don’t use a barrier method like a condom.)
“Stopping birth control does not require an intricate process,” says Dr. Renee Volny Darko, an OB/GYN practicing in Pennsylvania. “It does require an understanding of what to expect once it is stopped. I find that when patients’ expectations are well-managed, they tend to do much better.” (Pro tip: If you’re thinking about going off BC, establish a line of communication with your healthcare provider about it ASAP.)
You might experience withdrawal bleeding, also known as a false period, a few days after stopping your birth control. While some women ovulate two weeks after they stop taking the pill, if you’ve been on it for many years, it might take a month or so to get your period, since your uterine lining is thin and you don’t have anything to bleed. Your period will return after a cycle where that lining has a chance to build back up — the result of your ovaries making estrogen again.
When Liz stopped taking hormonal birth control in order to get pregnant, she was miserable. Her periods were super heavy, she couldn’t focus at work, and her emotions were all over the place. “I cried in the grocery store,” she said. “I love the grocery store! Nothing bad was happening!” She got pregnant quickly, and after each of her two children were born, she had to hold off on getting back on birth control so she could establish a breastfeeding pattern (you can use a progesterone-only contraceptive while breastfeeding), and during this time, “I was a total weeping mess.”
Side effects like mood swings, as well as headaches, acne, and irregular bleeding, should subside after a few weeks of being off birth control. If you had a low sex drive due to oral contraceptives, that should return soon after ending birth control. Weight gain or weight loss typically don’t happen (unless you’re quitting Depo-Provera, which sometimes increases appetite).
It’s important to remember that how one feels after stopping hormonal birth control depends entirely on the individual. “Many people transition off of birth control just fine,” says Dr. Janelle Luk, a reproductive endocrinologist in New York City. “Everyone is different — it’s similar to how some people need 10 hours of sleep, some need six. It depends on your body. Listen to what it’s telling you.”
To cleanse or not to cleanse? Quick answer: It’s unnecessary.
If you do a Google search for “birth control cleanse” or “birth control detox,” you’ll find references to “post-birth control syndrome,” and “how to reset your hormones after the pill.” Post-birth control syndrome refers to symptoms that arise after you get off birth control pills (painful periods, acne, headaches, feeling super emotional, etc). The term is frequently used, alongside “birth control detox,” by naturopathic doctors, who practice forms of alternative medicine and sell cleansing products with natural ingredients like chasteberry and other nutrients. These are typically marketing ideas meant to sell products, not scientific ones.
Neither of these are medical terms, clarifies Dr. Darko. “Birth control is usually not considered toxic by MDs. so there is no cleansing or reset process needed to get the body ready for pregnancy. There are women who ovulate or even become pregnant while on birth control. I, myself, as an OB/GYN, ovulated while I was on the pill. It truly depends on the type of birth control and how a woman’s body responds to it.”
How you feel post-pill has a lot to do with why you went on it in the first place. Did you want to prevent pregnancy and were otherwise healthy? Post-birth control side effects can sometimes go away after only a few weeks. Did you start birth control pills because you have PCOS or endometriosis and you want to control symptoms like irregular periods, heavy bleeding, excess hair, etc? Once you stop taking hormonal birth control, those symptoms will likely return.
If going off of hormonal birth control is proving rough for you and you’re experiencing things like acne, menstrual irregularities, as well as a heavy periods (if that’s not normal for you) and increased cramping, Dr. Kecia Gaither, Director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln, recommends a healthy diet, decreasing your stress levels, and increasing your iron consumption (especially if your period is super heavy). She advises letting nature take its course: “Generally menstrual cycles autocorrect themselves within 3-6 months.”
Hormonal birth control + fertility
Hormonal birth control does not cause infertility. You may not be able to conceive immediately after you stop taking it, especially if you’ve been on it for a long time, but while that can be frustrating, it’s not necessarily cause for concern.
How you feel when you go off hormonal contraceptives, and what happens or doesn’t happen with your period after you’re off them, can reveal a lot about your overall health. Hormonal birth control treats (and therefore disguises) many symptoms of women’s health problems such as endometriosis or PCOS, so once you’re off it, it’s no longer doing the work of staving off the symptoms.
“The reason that a woman might have started the birth control might be the reason for her infertility,” says Dr. Darko. “For example, I’ve had women patients in their late twenties come to me for infertility thinking that it was caused by being on birth control since the age of 16. When I asked for a detailed history of why they started on birth control at age 16, they typically described a scenario of PCOS or endometriosis. Well, PCOS and endometriosis alone are well-known risk factors for infertility, whether treated with birth control or not. Again, expectation management is important when starting or stopping any treatment regimen.”
When to bring in the pros
How do you know if something’s wrong once you’ve transitioned off of hormonal birth control? If your period hasn’t returned after 2-3 months, check in with your doctor (though, if you were on Depo-Provera, it might take up to a year to regulate). Additionally, if the side effects that come with stopping birth control pills (like headaches) don’t, well, stop, that’s an indication that something could be up. You should also definitely seek medical attention if you develop any new symptoms, like numbness and shortness of breath. When in doubt, listen to your body and rely on your instincts — if you feel like something’s not right, take action.
And speaking of action: Even if you’re not thinking about going off your chosen method of birth control and trying to get pregnant now, you should still find out what’s up in terms of your hormones and your fertility timeline. Modern Fertility’s fertility hormone test and timeline tool are here to help you get important (and empowering) information when it comes to planning your future.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Jane van Dis, MD, FACOG. Dr. van Dis is an OB-GYN, co-founder and CEO of Equity Quotient, and Medical Director for Ob Hospitalist Group.
What Happens When You Stop Taking Birth Control Pills?
Another false concern is the idea that the longer you’ve been on the pill, the longer it will take you to get pregnant once you stop. “But that’s not the case,” says Tosha Rogers, DO, an ob-gyn in the Atlanta area.
The Effects of Stopping the Pill
Although you won’t notice that you’ve started ovulating again, if you were taking the pill for another reason, such as to control heavy bleeding or to regulate your period, it’s highly likely that the problem will return as soon as you stop, Dr. Putterman says.
Likewise, if you were taking the pill to control hot flashes, you might start having them after stopping birth control pills. If the pill helps make your skin more clear, once you stop taking it, you could start breaking out again. If getting your period makes you irritable or sad and the pill was helping keep you on an even keel, don’t be surprised if those PMS emotions return once you stop.
Some women may find that their appetite increases when they stop birth control pills. On the other hand, if your birth control pills were causing you to retain water, you may lose water weight once you stop.
But any minor side effects shouldn’t last more than a month or two, Thomas says. “They should level off after that.” Putterman says to keep in mind that lower-dose pills have fewer side effects while you’re on them and when you withdraw from them than higher-dose pills do.
When to Stop Taking Birth Control Pills
Although you can stop taking birth control pills at any time, even in the middle of the pill pack, doing so could throw your cycle off and cause bleeding to start. “Your uterus gets confused, but it’s not your period,” Thomas says. “You could bleed for two weeks and there’s no way to control it.” If you want to bypass irregular bleeding, wait to finish the pack before you stop.
Another reason to finish your pack is to better judge ovulation timing if you’re stopping birth control to get pregnant — you’ll know when to expect your period and when you might be ovulating. It’s easier to date your pregnancy if you know when your last period was.
Once you’re off birth control pills, pay attention to your cycle. If it doesn’t return to normal in two to three months, see your doctor. There could be another health issue at work.
Stopping your birth control pills mid-pack can cause symptoms such as irregular periods, spotting, and cramping as your body struggles to fall back to a regular menstrual cycle. These problems are temporary and will not pose any long-term risks to your health. However, you should be aware of these short-term risks if you want to stop your birth control pills in the middle of the pack.
What Are the Risks of Stopping Pills Mid-Pack?
All the hormonal changes in your body caused by stopping birth control pills can trigger a variety of symptoms. These include:
- No periods (post-pill amenorrhea).
- Mild spotting.
- Very light or heavy periods.
- Abdominal cramping, during periods and in between.
- Weight gain, often due to increased appetite and other side effects sapping motivation to exercise.
- Weight loss.
- Mood swings as hormones which regular mood leave the body.
- Breast tenderness.
- Food cravings.
- Nausea and other gut issues, including bloating and gassiness due to changes in gut bacteria.
- Hair loss.
- Water retention.
- Changes in libido. Some women report a greater sex drive while others say their libido drops while they are adjusting to life off the pill.
- Increased risk of pregnancy.
You’re more likely to experience these symptoms if you were on the pill for a long time. Most of these changes should be temporary and not compromise your health in any way. You should see these symptoms subside and your body settle down into a normal menstrual cycle in around three months. However, if you had these symptoms, such as acne or mood swings, before you started taking birth control they may persist once you stop taking the pills. This isn’t always the case though. Sometimes the pill’s hormone stabilizing effects continue even after women stop taking the pill.
While it’s rare, you could also become pregnant earlier than you might expect when you stop your pills mid-pack as sperm can survive for some time in the female reproductive tract. You could have sex, then stop the pill and create the right conditions for the sperm to fertilize the egg. As mentioned above, women are also more likely to become pregnant when they stop their pills mid-pack until their menstrual cycle returns to normal.
While there is an increased risk of symptoms occurring if you stop your birth control mid-pack and the symptoms may persist for longer, they can also happen if you stop your birth control at the end of your pack. Everyone’s body reacts differently to stopping birth control.
Why Stop Birth Control Pills Mid-Pack?
You might want to stop birth control pills in the middle of your pack for several reasons, including:
- Wanting to have children.
- Wanting to change or stop birth control to combat side effects.
- Wanting to start another contraceptive you don’t need to take daily.
- Under medical advice to stop taking birth control.
Perhaps you don’t want to budget for birth control pills and figure now is as good a time to stop as any. No matter your reason, take time to consider whether the risks of stopping mid-pack are worth taking for you.
Medical experts typically encourage people to finish their birth control pack before stopping birth control or finding another method. This helps your body return to a natural menstrual cycle. It can also make it easier to determine when you’re ovulating if you do want to have a baby.
What Does Stopping Birth Control Pills Mid-Pack Do to Your Body?
When you stop taking your birth control pills, your reproductive system starts functioning normally again. The body starts making the hormones that encourage the follicles in your ovaries to mature and release eggs. However, if you stop your pack in the middle, it could take your body several months to start producing these hormones. In most cases though, women ovulate and regain fertility two weeks after they stop birth control.
Combination pills contain estrogen which stabilizes the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium. When you stop taking these pills mid-pack, the estrogen leaves your body suddenly. This can upset the lining of the uterus and cause it to shed a little, causing spotting.
All birth control pills contain hormones. When these hormones leave your body, usually within two days, they can cause a withdrawal bleed, even if you’ve only just had a period. Since progestin-only pills have fewer hormones than combination pills, there is less risk of side effects if you stop these pills mid-pack.
How Can You Treat the Symptoms of Stopping Birth Control Mid-Pack?
As the symptoms of stopping birth control mid-pack are temporary, many women simply ride them out. However, there are ways to make the months after you stop birth control easier:
- Use panty liners or period underpants to minimize mess from spotting.
- Use hot water bottles and drink herbal tea to relieve cramps.
- Eat a balanced whole-foods diet and exercise to relieve cramps and reduce weight gain.
- Avoid dairy, increase zinc consumption, and eat foods rich in probiotics, such as live-cultured yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, and to reduce acne.
- Take probiotic supplements to restore healthy gut bacteria.
- Reduce stress to increase progesterone and get the body back in hormonal balance.
- Over-the-counter painkillers can relieve cramps and headaches.
- Skincare products can tame acne.
- Use of other contraceptives, such as condoms or diaphragms, can combat the increased risk of pregnancy while your menstrual cycle is returning to normal.
Symptoms rarely persist beyond three or four months. If you had irregular periods before you started the pill, it might take six months for your period to return. If your symptoms do persist longer than expected, speak to a Nurx ™ medical expert. You can also speak to a Nurx medical expert to rule out any other health problems and to see if changing or stopping your birth control method is right for you. If you’re stopping birth control to try having a baby, your care provider can also help you create a prenatal plan.
how do you stop taking birth control? just cold- turkey?
There’s no prescribed method for going off birth control — you can stop taking them in the middle of the pack, or finish the pack you’re on without starting a new one. Medically, there’s no difference, although finishing your current pill pack means you’ll know when you’re going to get your period, whereas stopping in the middle will make it harder to predict when you’ll get your period. If it’s important to you to know when your period is coming, it might make more sense to finish the pack.
After you stop taking birth control pills, your body and menstrual cycle will need some time to adjust, just like they did when you started the pill. You might notice some spotting or bleeding between your periods, and your periods may be slightly irregular for a few months. But this is temporary, and your cycle will return to how it was before you started the pill pretty quickly.
Remember that as soon as you stop taking the pill, you’re no longer protected from pregnancy. So if you’re planning to stop taking the pill and keep having vaginal sex, but you don’t want to get pregnant, you’ll need to use another birth control method.
If you’re switching to a new birth control method, you may need to overlap methods or use a back-up method, like a condom, for a few days. This handy fact sheet from the Reproductive Health Access Project can help you figure out how to switch from any birth control method to any other method.
Tags: birth control, birth control pills, menstrual cycle, the pill
The Pill is like the Swiss Army knife of birth control: It does so much more than you’d think. Oral hormonal contraceptives prevent unplanned pregnancy, help regulate your cycle, tamp down menstrual cramps, and can clear up your skin. Theses are just some of the reasons people start taking hormonal birth control.
But what should you expect if you go off of it, and are there side effects of stopping birth control? And why would anyone want to go off the Pill the first place (besides wanting to make a baby, of course)?
“The decision to stop taking birth control is a personal one,” says Nicole Noyes, MD, chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Northwell Health. For example, “some people stop taking the pill if they learn they’re at an increased risk for rare, but serious complications related to the Pill, such as blood clots,” she says. Rarely, a cancer diagnosis would be a reason to stop, because some cancers are sensitive to hormones.
Someone might also switch to non-hormonal birth control if they have bad symptoms on hormonal contraceptives, such as mood changes. And some people simply don’t like the idea of “fake” hormones in their body and want to try something different.
Your Burning BC Questions, Answered
If you do want to stop taking the Pill, there’s no best way to do that. You can just go ahead and stop in the middle of a pack, wait until you finish—whatever you want (medically, there’s no difference). The only reason you may want to finish the pack is because then you have a better idea of when you’ll get your period moving forward, experts point out.
If you want to switch to non-hormonal birth control (and, again, that’s entirely your choice), Alison Edelman, MD, an ob-gyn and director of the Oregon Family Planning Fellowship, suggests a copper IUD. It’s even better at preventing pregnancy than birth control pills, she says. But, some people do have pretty serious cramping and bleeding on their periods when they have a copper IUD, so that’s also definitely something to consider.
Either way, most of them are likely to pass once your body adjusts. And if you’re wondering how long its take for your body to go back to normal after stopping birth control? Your period typically comes back in three months, and side effects should peace out then as well, if not sooner, per the Mayo Clinic.
No matter your reason for quitting hormonal birth control, there are a few things you might expect to happen. Just remember, everyone reacts differently, so you probably won’t feel all of the symptoms experienced by the experts and women below. There’s a chance you won’t feel any of them at all—but they’re still great to know about in advance, just in case.
1. You might get some pimples.
When you’re on the Pill, your testosterone levels dip, which can lead to fewer breakouts, says Alyssa Dweck, MD, ob-gyn and co-author of V Is for Vagina. But when you stop taking it, those levels go back up again, so your acne could get worse, she explains.
When Melissa F. from Louisiana lost her insurance and had to go off the Pill, she started seeing acne all over her body, she tells Women’s Health. She had been on the Pill for three years.
But there’s good news here: For most people, the breakouts won’t last. Our bodies don’t like change, Dr. Edelman says. For however many years you were taking the Pill, your body got used to a continuous hormone. Now, it has to readjust to the way things were before, and during the first few months your body might freak out a bit. Acne can be a part of that.
If you didn’t have any problems with acne before you started taking the Pill, the extra bumps on your face (and anywhere else) will probably go away after those few months. But, some people originally start taking the Pill because it can help clear up acne. If that’s you, then Dr. Edelman says you’ll probably start having the same skin troubles as you did before you started the Pill once you go off it.
2. You might feel hornier.
Some people report having a higher sex drive when they start taking birth control, Dr. Edelman says, because they’re no longer worried about getting pregnant. No matter how it affected you, you can expect your body to go back to baseline when you stop taking birth control, she says.
“My sex drive kind of increased and decreased when it wanted to,” Melissa says about going off the pill. “It’s like it was all out of balance.”
The lack of the Pill won’t make any major changes to your natural sex drive—it just might feel that way because: 1) You’ve been on the Pill so long that you don’t remember what your natural sex drive was like, and 2) Your sex drive isn’t constant. It changes throughout our lives. So your baseline sex drive when you go off the Pill might be worlds different from what it was before you started it.
3. Or, the opposite.
Some women taking hormonal birth control may experience a lower sex drive and more discomfort during sex, according to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, thanks to the dip in testosterone levels. As a result, some women report having a higher sex drive when they go off the pill.
4. Your period will change.
Not to state the obvious, but birth control pills have a big impact on your period. So quitting birth control does, too. “I went off the Pill about six months ago, because my husband and I want to start a family,” Kaely D. from California says. “But I wish I’d gone off years ago. I love how I feel. My periods are a little irregular and unpredictable, but that’s not a deal breaker for me.”
Irregular periods were a slightly bigger deal for Kathy H. from North Carolina, though. She took the Pill for nine years, but went off it when she wanted to start a family. Since the Pill regulates your hormones, your period will go back to the way it was once you stop taking it, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine. So if yours didn’t always come on time every month, you should expect to have that happen again.
And, again, it’ll take some time for your body to regulate, Dr. Edelman says. It can take months for your period to get back to what it was before you started the Pill. And it might never the same—though that’s not the Pill’s fault. “Many women forget that our periods change throughout our lives,” she says.
Just because your period was always regular before you started birth control doesn’t mean it’ll be regular afterward. Periods sometimes naturally change, and your body’s “normal” period when you stop taking the Pill might be very different from what it was before you began taking it.
5. You might be moody.
PMS is a pretty normal thing for women to feel during their periods, but for some it’s very intense. Connor D. from Virginia has a severe form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a condition that causes depression, irritability, and tension before menstruation.
For five years, she took hormonal birth control pills to manage the symptoms, but then Connor decided to stop. “I was in college and didn’t trust myself to remember to take it every day when my life had little to no routine,” she says. “I also started to experience break-through bleeding in the middle of my cycle.”
Unfortunately, quitting the Pill made her PMDD symptoms way worse. “My PMDD came back full force: extreme emotional changes, unexplained sadness, anger, anxiety. I only had one good week per month.”
Again, experts note that any period issues you had before you started the Pill can unfortunately come back full force once you’ve quit.
6. You might gain or lose weight.
Not everyone loses weight when they stop taking the Pill. Some gain a few pounds. Research shows that a third of women who stop taking oral contraception lose weight, a third gain weight, and a third stay exactly the same, says Dr. Dweck.
If the scale goes down, it’s most likely water weight, since being on the Pill can cause water retention. But remember: Losing water weight isn’t the same as losing fat, so any lost pounds likely won’t last.
7. You might get fewer headaches.
Headaches aren’t super common on birth control, but because the Pill regulates your natural hormones and causes a steep drop in estrogen, some people do get headaches, especially those who are prone to migraines. For some migraine sufferers, oral contraceptives can be a trigger, according to the National Headache Foundation.
Kathy felt a change in the frequency of her headaches. “I did notice that I mentally and physically felt better,” she says. “I didn’t feel as sluggish, and I had a lot less headaches than I did while taking the Pill.”
8. You might lose some hair—or get it back.
Here’s something you probably didn’t know about your hair: Every follicle is on its own little growth cycle, Dr. Edelman says. But, sometimes, when your hormones change—because you’re pregnant or because you’re taking or quitting the consistent hormones in birth control—your hair all connects to one cycle. And when that happens, large clumps can all fall out at once. It’s nothing to worry about for your health, Dr. Edelman says. But it can be scary. Luckily, it’s pretty rare, so most people don’t have to worry about losing hair when they go off the Pill.
However, other people have a different kind of hair problem. Some women start taking birth control to help with unwanted hair growth on their chins and backs. Hair in these areas is called hirsutism, Dara Matseoane-Peterssen, MD, chief of the division of General Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital. The Pill can help slow the growth of this hair because it tampers natural testosterone levels.
If you had problems with unwanted hair before you started birth control, you’ll likely have unwanted hair again after stopping it.
9. You might not get pregnant right away.
While plenty of people quit oral contraceptives without wanting to get pregnant, it’s no shock that most people who leave birth control behind do it because they’re trying to start a family. But if you don’t quit the Pill and then immediately get pregnant, it’s no reason to freak out. Remember, it can take a few months for your cycle to get back on track, Dr. Edelman says. So it might take a few tries to get pregnant.
But that’s not true for everyone—some people will get pregnant immediately. So make sure you’re really ready to get pregnant when you go off of your pills. “There’s a myth that once you stop taking the Pill, the hormones stick around in your body for awhile,” Dr. Edelman says. Some people think their body needs to flush the contraceptive hormones out, and that they won’t be able to get pregnant at first, but that’s not true. You can get pregnant as soon as you stop taking your pills.
10. Sex might feel more pleasurable.
For some people, taking birth control can make sex a bit uncomfortable. “Some people report pain or discomfort during sex, and luckily this should go away once someone stops taking the Pill if it was truly the culprit,” Dr. Noyes says.
Typically, the discomfort happens because hormonal birth control can cause vaginal dryness, Dr. Edelman says. While lube can help with that, it’s sometimes not enough. Connor, for one, was happy that she no longer needed to use lube during sex once she quit the Pill.
If you struggle with uncomfortable sex because of the Pill, you might want to explore other birth control options with your doc to make sex feel good again. Just remember to be prepared. “Unless pregnancy is a goal, it’s important to talk to a doctor about other methods of birth control if you plan on going off,” Dr. Noyes says.
Whether you want to change contraception, have a baby or simply take a break, there are a few things to consider if you are thinking about stopping taking the contraceptive pill. Alongside hormonal changes, you might feel both physically and mentally different while you get used to it.
However, with the right guidance, stopping taking the contraceptive pill should be safe, easy and hassle-free. We speak to GP Dr Clare Morrison and Medical Director Dr Daniel Fenton about what happens when you come off the contraceptive pill:
What happens when you stop taking the pill
Essentially once you stop taking the contraceptive pill your hormones will return to normal. ‘When stopping the combined oral contraceptive pill the hormones return to their usual pattern and the woman starts ovulating again and releasing an egg, and the changes to the womb and mucous return to normal,’ says Dr Fenton.
He adds that the mini-pill which doesn’t contain any oestrogen is slightly different. ‘The mini-pill prevents pregnancy by thickening the mucus in the cervix to stop sperm reaching an egg. Some of the newer progestogen-only pills can also stop ovulation… When the mini-pill is stopped, changes to the mucus in the neck of the womb are reversed making it easier for the sperm to reach the egg.’
When stopping the combined oral contraceptive pill the hormones return to their usual pattern.
The pill can be a good leveller, so you can also expect to experience some changes in your mood and hormones once you stop taking the pill.
‘The pill tends to even out hormonal fluctuations, so stopping it can lead to more ups and downs, with premenstrual mood swings, bloating and acne, and heavier more painful periods,’ says Dr Morrison, ‘But, on a more positive note, ovulation will restart leading to increased libido, especially when mid-cycle.’
What to do if you forget to take the pill
If you miss a pill or forget to take it for a few days, you may still be protected, but you should still be careful if you want to avoid pregnancy. ‘It takes seven days for the pill to wear off, which is why the gap between packets is seven days and no longer,’ says Dr Morrison.
‘Missing a pill at the beginning or end of the packet is therefore much more risky than missing one in the middle, when it comes to the combined pill. With the progesterone-only pill missing even one tablet at any time could pose a risk.’
When to use protection if you miss a pill
You should consider additional forms of protection whenever you miss a pill. ‘If the pill is missed beyond the recommended window, then you may be unsafe, and can potentially fall pregnant if you have had unprotected sex,’ says Dr Fenton. ‘You should take your missed pill as soon as you remember and should use condoms for at least the next seven days.’
In terms of knowing when your pill has started to offer you protection again, the time varies depending on what sort of pill you’re using. It’s best to speak to your GP or pharmacist if you are unsure.
The pill, if taken correctly, is up to 99.9 per cent effective at preventing pregnancy, but problems can occur if pills are missed or if you take them alongside certain medications. If you’re not sure if the pill is working for you, there are other contraceptive options available.
‘The contraceptive implant is a very good option for those who find it difficult to remember to take a pill at the same time each day,’ says Dr Fenton.
If you’re not sure the pill is working for you, there are other contraceptive options available.
Dr Morrison agrees, and recommends the IUD (the coil): ‘The most reliable methods are the implant and the IUD. These both have to be inserted by a professional, but don’t need to be replaced for several years.’
There’s also the contraceptive injection, which again has ‘excellent effectiveness,’ but only lasts for three months at a time.
Coming off the pill and fertility
If you stop taking the contraceptive pill because you want to have a baby, your fertility should kick in fairly quickly.
‘After a week of stopping the pill, the ovaries become active again, leading to ovulation and the possibility of pregnancy,’ says Dr Morrison. This means you could be fertile even after just seven days.
‘In theory, once a woman stops taking her pill or misses several pills, there is no real restriction on how soon she may get pregnant, as fertility can return immediately,’ adds Dr Fenton.
Coming off the pill and pregnancy
If you want to conceive you may have heard that you need to stop taking the pill several months before you start trying, as for some women it can take time for your menstrual cycle to return to normal, but Dr Fenton says this is not necessarily the case.
‘We often talk about the need to stop in advance to get the hormones out of the system – but this is not entirely true,’ explains Dr Fenton. ‘While it does sometimes take a little time for periods to return to a normal pre -pill pattern, this does not mean you are not fertile. So, if you are planning on conceiving, stop the pill when you are ready and start trying. If periods remain very irregular after a couple of months, do get advice from your GP.’
If you are planning on conceiving, stop the pill when you are ready and start trying.
Many factors can contribute to the length of time it takes a woman to fall pregnant after stopping taking the pill. For example, Dr Morrison points out that women with a history of polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is a condition associated with reduced fertility, can be more fertile during the first few months after stopping the pill.
Conversely, some women suffer from post pill amenorrhoea which means their period takes time to return, and it can take several months for fertility to return to normal too.
How to tell if you are pregnant
While there are a few telltale signs you can look out for, the most obvious indicator that you might be pregnant is a missed period.
‘Around this time there may be breast discomfort and swelling, nausea, and feeling more emotional than usual,’ says Dr Morrison. ‘There may be some pelvic discomfort, a bit like period pains, but without any bleeding.’
Taking a test is the easiest way to confirm either way. If you’re worried about doing a test on your own or at home, ask a friend or family member to keep you company or book an appointment to see your GP practice nurse.
Sexual health resources
For further advice and information on contraception and birth control, try one of the following resources:
- Ask your GP for advice.
- Find a sexual health clinic near you.
- Find contraceptive services near you.
- Use the FPA my contraceptive tool.
- Call the National Sexual Health Line: 0300 123 7123.
Last updated: 09-12-19
Dr Juliet McGrattan (MBChB) Dr Juliet McGrattan Dr Juliet McGrattan spent 16 years as a GP, two years as a Clinical Champion for Physical Activity for Public Health England and is the Women’s Health Lead for the 261 Fearless global running network. Her award winning book, Sorted: The Active Woman’s Guide to Health was published by Bloomsbury in 2017.
What happens when you go off birth control?
Q&A with Dr. Manny: I’ve been taking birth control pills for over a decade and have recently decided to stop taking them. What happens after you stop taking the pill— should I expect any side effects?
Despite all the new contraceptive methods available like IUDs and hormonal implants, the birth control pill is still the most commonly used form. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates about 9.6 million women prefer it over other methods.
But what happens to a woman’s body when she decides to go off the pill?
We got this question from a viewer:
Dear Dr. Manny,
I’ve been taking birth control pills for over a decade and have recently decided to stop taking it. What happens after you stop taking the pill, should I expect any side effects?
Whether a woman is thinking about having a baby or is part of the 30 percent of women going pill-free over dissatisfaction, the decision should involve some planning.
Although you can stop taking birth control pills at any time, some doctors recommend that women finish their current pill pack before tossing it away. Quitting in the middle of a pack may throw your cycle off and cause some irregular bleeding or spotting.
Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) contain two female sex hormones, estrogen and progestin. The combinations of these hormones prevent ovulation and make a woman’s cervical mucus thicker to help keep sperm from going through the cervix and finding an egg.
Once a woman stops taking birth control, the synthetic hormones from the pills are usually out of their system within a few days and their periods should return within 4 to 12 weeks.
“It can take a few months for your period to return to normal. In medicine we call this ‘delayed menses’ and should be no cause for concern,” Dr. Alexandra Sowa of the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York told FoxNews.com. “There is a more rare phenomenon called post-pill amenorrhea, in which the periods don’t return, while it takes up to six months to officially receive this diagnosis, I tell my patients to check in with their doctor if their periods have not returned in about three months.”
Another reason a woman may not get her period is pregnancy. Contrary to persistent myths that long-term oral contraceptive use can affect fertility, the ability to get pregnant can return in the first month after going off the pill.
Even though ovulation can return immediately, internal hormones may not return to status quo as quickly.
“Birth control pills do a good job with ‘leveling out’ a woman’s hormones that normally fluctuate according to her ovulatory cycle. These fluctuations cause the common problems of PMS— menstrual cramps, menstrual headaches, bloating, and even heavy periods. So, stopping birth control pills may lead to all of these common symptoms,” Dr. Jabal Uffelman, a gynecologist at Transform Womans Care in Ft. Lauderdale, Flo., told FoxNews.com. “In fact, many women are taking birth control pills to control these problems, plus or minus, contraception.”
Other common side effects when coming off the birth control pill can include:
-Improved sexual desire
“Remember that most of the side effects of being on the birth control pill are positive ones— decrease in the risk of ovarian cancer, regular periods, marked improvement of acne, and a decrease in pelvic pain associated with endometriosis,” Dr. Jill Hechtman, an OB/GYN and medical director at Tampa Obstetrics in Brandon, Flo., told FoxNews.com.
Adverse side effects will vary from woman to woman and are typically a permanent problem if they existed before birth control use, but there are medications that can give symptomatic relief.
“Anti-inflammatory meds such as naproxen and mefenamic acid are very helpful,” Uffelman said. “Also, if the patient is not planning to get pregnant and has a reliable birth control method, a testosterone pellet is a very useful therapy to improve mood swings and PMS associated with the menstrual cycle.”
Remember, you should always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your contraception.