Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team. Updated on December 18, 2020

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.

Depending on the type of birth control you use, hormone will leave your body at varying rate; after stopping birth control, however, it is still possible to get pregnant immediately. You may also get your period again if it was turned off, and experience changes in your appearance and Vitamin D levels. 

Woman holding birth control packet

How Long Does Birth Control Stay In Your System?

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. 

After two years, there is no difference in 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, 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.

Each woman is different, but for most the medication should be out of your system within 3-7 days. However, 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. 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.

How to stop 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 it is dependent on the individual to know exactly how much weight will be gained, if any, following return to normal hormone levels, it is 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 to its normal hormone levels. 

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.

How to balance hormones after birth control

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between pregnancy symptoms vs stopping birth control?

Pregnancy symptoms include nausea, fatigue, smell sensitivity, lack of a period, and tender, swollen breasts, and 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 person’s bodily 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 is necessary. 

Can stopping birth control cause 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. 

How common is hair loss after stopping birth control?

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 birth control side effects 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 with your physician to find the best type of birth control for your body.

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.