Many women start taking birth control in their teens and may continue taking it for a decade or more. There are my reasons women may stop taking birth control, with one of the more common reasons being to conceive.

But what happens when someone stops taking birth control?

Firstly, as hormonal birth control methods such as the pill, IUD, patch, ring, and injections all use a combination of hormones to prevent fertilization, it takes a while for hormone levels to return to baseline. Depending on the type of birth control you use, the hormones will leave your body at varying rates. However, after stopping birth control it is still possible to get pregnant immediately.

Plus, women who stop taking birth control pills will experience an array of different symptoms before fertility levels return to normal. You may get your period again if your birth control caused it to stop and experience changes in your appearance and Vitamin D levels. Stopping non-hormonal birth control, such as copper IUDs or cervical caps, will not result in these symptoms or changes.

But what happens to the body when you stop birth control, and what do these changes look like? Let’s dive in.

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How Long Does Birth Control Stay In Your System?

For most women, it takes only 2-3 days for hormone levels to return to normal after they stop taking most forms of hormonal birth control (pill, patch, ring, IUD, implant). The birth control shot can take 8 months to a year to wash out of your system if you have had at least 3 shots.

After two years, there is no difference in the ability to conceive between those who took birth control and those who did not. 

Can you get pregnant right after stopping the pill?

Yes, it’s definitely possible to get pregnant right after stopping hormonal birth control. After a woman stops taking the pill, injections or 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 to conceive, it’s recommended that you use barrier methods such as condoms as soon as you stop using your birth control in order to prevent fertilization.

However, for some women, it can 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 as their body adjusts before ovulation occurs. This is especially true if a woman stops taking the birth control shot.

How does stopping birth control affect menstruation?

To understand how stopping birth control will affect your menstruation, we have to first discuss how it works to prevent pregnancy.

Hormonal birth control works in two different ways to prevent pregnancy; it prevents ovulation and 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, which provides a better chance of implantation. Anytime a woman uses birth control to manipulate ovulation, menstruation is also affected.

Stopping birth control can affect menstruation in different ways, and each woman will have a unique experience coming off birth control. For most, the medication should be out of their system within 3 to 7 days. However, it can take a few months before a woman starts to see regular periods. This is due to hormone levels adjusting and ovulation beginning to occur on a predictable cycle. You can experience spotting, lighter or heavier periods, or shorter or longer bleeds than usual as your body acclimatizes to its new hormone levels. However, if you don’t get a period after several months on from stopping birth control, it’s possible that something else is going, which should always be discussed with a doctor.

Will stopping birth control see a return in previous menstrual symptoms?

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.

Birth control itself can, in some cases, lead to new symptoms that show up when a woman gets a period. Common symptoms include headaches, bloated and even weight gain. Stopping birth control will often see these symptoms cease to be an issue

Yet every woman is different and our bodies change over time. For women who have used birth control consistently since their teens and come off birth control in their late 20s, their periods may be completely different than what they previously experienced.

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. When you stop taking hormonal birth control that caused these side effects the effects will go away which can lead to weight loss and also a decrease in breast size. But if your weight gain or loss on the pill was not due to the birth control you will not fluctuate any more than you normally do.

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.The opposite can also be true, where your birth control causes your hair to fall out faster than usual. In this case, you will notice less hair falling out.

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.

Weight changes

Some forms of birth control can cause weight gain and an increase in breast size. When you stop taking the hormonal birth control that caused these side effects, these changes will be reversed. However, if any weight gain or loss experienced while using birth control was not caused by the medication, stopping taking it will not result in any further changes to your body.

Hair loss or gain

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. For women who had hair loss related to hormonal imbalances before starting the pill, stopping the pill can cause this condition to return. The opposite can also be true, where your birth control causes your hair to fall out faster than usual. In this case, you will notice less hair falling out once you stop taking your birth control.

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.

How to prevent weight gain after stopping birth control

After stopping birth control, it is normal for the body to experience some changes. One of these changes is an increase in PMS-related symptoms, including bloating. This bloating is a direct result of increased water retention; in many cases, this increased retention leads to weight gain. While the amount of weight gained, if any, following return to normal hormone levels will be dependent on the individual, it’s important to remember that this is the body’s natural response. Weight will fluctuate and return to normal levels with time, and it is critical to remain on a consistent diet and exercise schedule while allowing your body to recalibrate its hormone levels.

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Stopping birth control can change vitamin D levels

After stopping birth control, some women will find that their vitamin D levels decrease. Low levels of vitamin D can lead to bone density issues, lower levels of immunity, increased rates of depression, and higher levels of 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 manage this side effect.

How can I balance my hormones after birth control?

Every woman responds differently to hormonal birth control, and coming off birth control will affect women in different ways. As always, it’s important to discuss any changes you make with your doctor. If you experience side effects or symptoms that are distressing or uncomfortable, you may need to discuss alternative options.

How Pandia Health can help?

If you stop birth control and experience unwanted side effects or symptoms, you always have the option to go back onto birth control. Many women stop birth control because they didn’t gel well with the method they were using.

At Pandia Health, we prioritize matching women with the right birth control for them by providing expert birth control care. Our doctors prescribe birth control based on the “Pandia Health algorithm” which takes into account several factors, including age, race/ethnicity, BMI, and your personal medical history, all of which can influence your body’s reaction to birth control. For example, if you are under 30 years old, it’s best to be on a method that has at least 30mcg of estrogen.

Pandia Health is the most trusted provider for online birth control consultation, with an exceptional team of doctors who can prescribe your birth control online through a telemedicine consultation. The next step is getting your contraceptive method of choice delivered for free — even if you are uninsured! We accept most insurances. No insurance? No worries! Most pill packs start at $15/month and are sent straight to your mailbox with FREE delivery.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between pregnancy symptoms and side effects from stopping birth control?

Pregnancy symptoms include nausea, fatigue, smell sensitivity, lack of a period, and tender, swollen breasts. These symptoms will normally intensify with time. Stopping birth control causes a temporary readjustment of hormones but is followed by the return of your period as well as a decrease in any symptoms.

Will I lose weight if I stop taking birth control?

Each body’s response to stopping birth control is different. Varying water retention levels and normal body hormone levels contribute to weight changes. It is important to consult a physician for more detailed information regarding your body’s response.

Can I just stop taking birth control?

Stopping immediately is an option for all birth control methods. The birth control pill can be stopped at any time and hormone levels will return to normal within 3-7 days. For implants and IUDs, removal of the device by a medical professional is necessary.

Can stopping birth control cause a yeast infection?

Yeast infections are normally caused by hormone imbalances, which may be brought on by either stopping or starting birth control. It is important to consult your physician if you believe you may be experiencing signs of an infection.

When does birth control stop working?

The birth control pill is effective for as long as it is taken correctly. Other forms of birth control, such as the ring, patch, or implant, are effective for varying lengths of time up to 5 years. Many women experience temporary hair loss for up to six months following stopping the birth control pill. This is due to increased stress hormones in the body as a direct response to stopping the contraceptive medication.

How long do the side effects of birth control side last?

Depending on the individual, side effects from birth control may last from weeks to the entire duration that the medication is in the body. It is important to discuss any side effects with your physician to find the best type of birth control for your body.

How can I stop taking birth control pills safely?

It is always important to talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medication. For birth control methods such as the pill or the patch, you can stop taking them right away. For more permanent methods like the IUD or implant, you will need to visit a medical professional to have them removed. If you are not wanting to get pregnant straight away, or at all, it is recommended that you use a barrier method such as condoms when having sexual intercourse after stopping your birth control.

At what age should you stop taking birth control?

You can keep using birth control up until menopause, which occurs around the age of 55, after which getting pregnant naturally is very rare. Women are generally advised to stop using the combined pill at 50 and to switch to another method of contraception, such as a progestogen-only pill, due to safety reasons. However, condoms should always be used no matter your age to prevent STIs.

When should I stop taking birth control?

There are many reasons a woman may want to stop taking birth control. One of the most common reasons is that she wants to get pregnant. If you want to get pregnant, you should stop using all types of birth control and allow your body to adjust as the hormones leave your body. If you are experiencing unwanted side effects from taking birth control such as weight gain or heavier bleeds, you should consult with your doctor and discuss the many alternative methods of birth control available.

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.