What Happens When You Stop Taking Birth Control?
What Happens When You Stop Taking Birth Control?
Whatever your reason, you might decide to go off your birth control one day. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but you might notice a few changes in yourself and your body. So, when you decide to stop taking your birth control, it's a good idea to be prepared and know exactly what's expected. That way, you can save the worries or negative feelings associated with the change, and know that your body simply needs the time to adjust (and it's perfectly normal).
Stopping Birth Control - Side Effects
1) You could get pregnant right away
No, your body doesn't need time to clear birth control from your system. For most women, normal ovulation resumes within a month or two; one study found that 20% of women were able to get pregnant one cycle after stopping birth control. (It may take longer after you stop getting birth control injections, though.) If you're not trying to get pregnant, make sure to use condoms or another type of contraception immediately after you stop taking your pills.
2) Your weight will probably stay the same
Don't ditch birth control solely to drop a few pounds. Though many women believe they've gained weight on the pill, scientific research hasn't actually found a link between oral contraceptive use and weight gain. In a 2014 review of 49 relevant trials, birth control did not appear to have a major impact on weight. "There has been no definitive evidence showing that starting—or stopping—birth control pills will affect your weight," says Neha Bhardwaj, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynaecology, and reproductive science at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. (One exception: progestin-only birth control injections may cause weight gain in some women.)
3) Your Period Will Take Time to Adjust
With adjusting ovulation also comes adjusting periods. When you stop taking birth control, you might not see regular periods for a few months as your body adjusts. This could mean you see irregular spotting, lighter periods than you’re used to, a heavier flow, a longer or shorter period, or none at all for the first month or so.
This is all normal because your body is adjusting to the lack of hormones in its own way. If, after a few months, you still have questions about your period or haven’t gotten a period at all, reach out to your doctor to see if anything else is the issues.
4) Hormones Leave Your Body Within a Few Days (With One Exception)
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take a while for your body to cleanse itself of the hormones from birth control. In fact, with most birth control methods it might only take a few days for your hormone levels to return back to normal.
One exception to this would be the birth control shot. Because it is meant to last 3 months with a single application, it may take 3-6 months for your body to rid itself of these hormones. They are delivered in a more long-term way and this creates a little lag time between stopping birth control and regulating your hormone levels.
5) Expect Different Types of Discharge
Vaginal discharge is something that is not often discussed because of its squeamish nature, but it’s important to notice how your body is reacting to the change of stopping birth control. Many birth control types, especially those with high levels of progestin, cause an increase in cervical mucus to help prevent sperm from entering the cervix and fertilizing an egg.
When stopping this birth control, you may notice this mucus ejecting itself in the form of vaginal discharge. This discharge may be white and stringy and is completely normal. As your body adjusts, it will take a few weeks to a few months for everything to normalize.
6) Your Skin Might Break Out
Combination birth control pills (the most common type), which combine oestrogen and progestin, clear up acne in many women because they can lower the body's levels of androgen, a hormone that produces oils on the skin. You may discover new crops of pimples after you stop taking the pill—especially around your period, when hormone levels fluctuate.
7) You Could Get More Headaches
About half of women report migraines around the time that they get their period, according to a 2004 study. (This is most likely due to a drop in oestrogen levels.) Certain birth control pills that let you skip periods or go longer between them, such as extended-cycle pills, may prevent migraines. For these women, going off birth control pills could cause their headaches to become more frequent.
8) Your Libido Might Be Affected
After stopping birth control, you may experience a higher sex drive than you did when you were on birth control. This is due to the decreased levels of oestrogen and progestin, which have an impact on the amount of testosterone your body produces.
Testosterone is a hormone that is often credited for sex drive, so when these levels increase, you may find yourself wanting to get busy a little more than you did while on birth control.
Cover Image Credit: Reader's Digest