Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team. Updated on January 4th, 2021

You just stopped taking birth control and you noticed some blood when you wipe after going pee. If this blood is not accompanied by additional symptoms, it is likely just a harmless withdrawal bleed. With that said, noticing a sudden change in your body is scary! 

Thankfully, we have some tips to help ease your nerves. The following FAQ will include everything you need to know about withdrawal bleeding that occurs after stopping birth control.

What is withdrawal bleeding? 

Withdrawal bleeding occurs when there is a change in hormones. This entails a release of painless blood that is lighter and shorter than a normal period. 

How long does withdrawal bleeding last?

While duration may vary for each individual, withdrawal bleeding typically lasts for a few days. If you notice blood for more than one week, consult a doctor. 

Why does withdrawal bleeding occur?

When an individual takes a break from hormonal birth control (i.e. if their pill pack contains a week of placebo pills), they will bleed as a result of the drop in hormones. This drop triggers a release of blood and mucus from the lining of the uterus out through the vagina. 

How does withdrawal bleeding differ from a period?

Both periods and withdrawal bleeding lead to shedding of the uterine lining. However, withdrawal bleeding tends to be less heavy because the synthetic hormones in birth control prevent the lining from building up as much. Additionally, an egg is only released during a normal period (not during a withdrawal bleed). 

Does withdrawal bleeding count as period?

Withdrawal bleeding does not count as a period because an egg is not released. It may take a while for your cycle to normalize after you stop taking birth control. 

What types of birth control lead to withdrawal bleeding?

The only types of birth control that may cause withdrawal bleeding are the pill, the patch, and the ring. These methods include fixed breaks, which ultimately leads to a drop in hormones and, thus, a withdrawal bleed.

When does withdrawal bleeding occur?

Withdrawal bleeding should occur about three days after you stop taking birth control (i.e. after you miss three pills). While it may take a few days to show up, you should consult a doctor if you do not experience a bleed within three weeks of when it is expected. If you are sexually active, a lack of withdrawal bleeding could be a sign of pregnancy. 

Can you prevent withdrawal bleeding?

The only way to prevent withdrawal bleeding is by taking your birth control continuously. This can be done safely with the pill – simply skip the week of placebo pills or request a prescription that only contains active pills. 

Is withdrawal bleeding necessary?

Withdrawal bleeding does not provide any major health benefits, so skipping it does not pose a significant risk. However, some women prefer to experience a monthly bleed while taking birth control, as it can serve as reassurance that they are not pregnant. 

Does withdrawal bleeding mean you are not pregnant?

A withdrawal bleed can serve as a sign that you are not pregnant. Furthermore, if you do not bleed when you typically do, you should take a pregnancy test. 

Can you have sex while experiencing a withdrawal bleed?

You can have sex during a withdrawal bleed if you and your partner feel comfortable doing so. If you take your birth control as it is prescribed (i.e. taking it every day around the same time), you should still be protected from pregnancy when withdrawal bleeding occurs. However, no form of contraception is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy, so using an additional method will provide additional security. Barrier methods in particular (i.e. condoms) will also protect both partners from the spread of STIs