Hormonal birth control pills are among the safest and most effective ways to prevent pregnancy and reduce period symptoms. For people under 40, birth control pills are generally safe with few lasting side effects. However, as you get older it’s important that you be aware of the increased risk of adverse effects from the pill and know your options for pregnancy prevention. 

Birth Control and Age: Everything You Need to Know

The age at which a person with a uterus is no longer at risk for pregnancy is not known, meaning there is no magic age at which you should stop birth control. 

Just like with everything else, the effects of birth control change as you age. The risk of experiencing adverse side effects from birth control increases as you get older.

Birth control methods like the combined oral contraceptive pill, the patch, or the vaginal ring contain high levels of estrogen, which can increase your risk for blood clots as you age. Additionally,  there is a relatively increased risk for breast cancer in women 45 or older who have taken combined oral contraceptive pills within the past nine years. Ultimately, it’s crucial to consult a doctor when determining when it’s best to stop taking birth control. 

While birth control may have some adverse side effects, it’s important to note that pregnancy may be more dangerous for some individuals. More specifically, pregnancies among people of advanced reproductive age (over 35) are considered high-risk for serious health conditions such as hemorrhage, venous thromboembolism, and fetal complications including miscarriage, stillbirth, and congenital anomalies.

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At What Age Should You Stop Taking Birth Control Pills?

Experts recommend continued contraceptive use until menopause or ages 50-55. Menopause is the time when menstruation has stopped for at least 12 consecutive months, typically occurring between the ages of 40-58.

It’s more difficult to determine whether you’ve reached menopause if you take hormonal birth control, as it stops ovulation. Additionally, aging leads to an increased risk for high blood pressure, which can be further amplified by birth control containing estrogen. That said, it may be beneficial to switch to lower-dose birth control or stop taking it altogether as you approach menopause. 

What to Expect When You Go Off The Pill?

Hormonal birth control methods like the pill, IUD, patch, ring and shot use a combination of hormones to prevent fertilization. With each type, these hormones may leave your body at varying rates. 

Once you stop taking birth control, it’s likely that you will experience some bodily changes. If you are perimenopause or still going through menopause, you may notice a return of some period symptoms such as cramps, PMS, or even spotting. You may also go through changes in weight, hair loss, and/or vitamin D levels. 

Going off birth control affects individuals in different ways. Consult your doctor if you are concerned about your symptoms. 

What are Birth Control Options for Women Over 40?

Oral contraceptives, like the birth control pill, are known to be less effective as you age. However, there are other effective contraceptive methods that women over 40 should consider. 

Barrier method

Barrier methods include condoms, diaphragms, and spermicidal sponges. These methods prevent sperm from getting into the vagina. Additionally, condoms have the added benefit of protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

Other hormonal methods

Other hormonal contraceptive methods include the IUD, implant, and shot. These methods prevent sperm from reaching an egg and require little maintenance following their initial insertion. 

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Emergency contraception

If you have recently stopped taking birth control or are currently going through menopause, you may be at risk for an unwanted pregnancy. Emergency contraception can come to the rescue.

The “morning after pill” can be used for up to 5 days after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. However, Pandia Health’s experts recommend that you take an emergency contraceptive pill ASAP because it does not work as well after ovulation occurs.

Emergency contraception such as Plan B and Ella works best in emergencies and should not be used as a regular birth control method. If you become pregnant, there are other methods to terminate pregnancy, such as the Plan C pill that you may consider.

How Can Pandia Health Help? 

It’s important to know your birth control options as you age. Talk to your doctor and check out the expert resources at Pandia Health on Facebook and Instagram.

If you’re not ready to stop taking birth control, sign up with Pandia Health for easy and convenient delivery straight to your mailbox!

Disclaimer: This article, even if and to the extent that it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners, is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider for specific health needs.