About 24% of women in the US aged 15-49 currently use a form of hormonal contraception, with most women starting their first contraception prescription during their teenage years, and commonly continue taking it for a decade or more. Eventually, many decide to stop taking birth control, and while there are plenty of reasons to cease contraception, it is most commonly done to begin planning for a child.
If you are somebody who is ready to end your birth control treatment you may be asking yourself: “What happens when someone stops taking birth control? What happens to the body when you stop birth control, and what do these changes look like?”
No worries, we got you! Read on to learn all you should know before stopping your hormonal birth control contraceptive.
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 your body may change after stopping birth control
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. 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 from stopping birth control, it’s possible that something else is going on, which should always be discussed with 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.
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.
Combination birth control pills, which are the most common birth control pills, contain both estrogen and progestin. These pills are highly effective in improving acne because they can decrease the levels of androgens in the body, which are hormones that contribute to the production of oil which causes acne. It is important to note that when you stop taking the combination birth control pill, you may experience a resurgence of acne if your skin was prone to it before, especially if your acne likes to show up around your menstrual cycle when hormone levels fluctuate.
If you choose to discontinue the birth control pill, there are other options to help you manage acne. These can include changing your skincare routines or getting the best acne treatment for your skin. For that, we recommend you choose an expert doctor so you can have your health history and acne needs assessed to get a tailored treatment that works for you.
Occasionally, some forms of birth control can cause increased water retention in some women. When you stop taking hormonal birth control that caused these side effects, the effects will go away which can lead to slight weight loss (1-2 lbs max) and also a decrease in breast size (½ cup) in some people. However, if the weight gain or loss experienced while using birth control was not caused by the medication, stopping taking it will not result in any weight changes to your body.
Hair Pattern Changes
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.
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.
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 Can Pandia Health 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.
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.