Whether you’re looking to get pregnant or quitting for medical reasons – many women stop taking the pill and don’t know what to expect or be aware of. Whatever your reason, you might experience a few hormonal and bodily changes as you return to your natural cycle.

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“Keep in mind that the pill is a type of hormonal medication,” explains Ob/Gyn Salena Zanotti, MD. “Every woman reacts differently to going on the pill and then coming off it. Some women may notice huge changes, while others notice very little difference.”

Here’s what to keep in mind as your body adjusts when you stop taking the pill.

Contents

1. You could get pregnant! (Yes, right away.)

Many women don’t realize how quickly their bodies can start ovulating again after going off BC. Once you stop taking the pill, the hormones will be out of your body in a matter of days and you’re no longer protected from pregnancy.

“There are some women who go off the pill and never even get a period because they get pregnant right away,” says Dr. Zanotti.

So if getting pregnant isn’t on your radar quite yet – be mindful that no pill means no contraception and you should be using an alternative method of birth control (like a condom).

2. It could take a while to get your natural period back.

Some women go right back to having a regular cycle after ditching the pill, while other women might not get their period again for three months. Dr. Zanotti’s advice is to be patient and track your cycle. If your period is still confused by month three, then make an appointment to see your doctor.

3. PMS symptoms might reappear.

“Many women go on birth control to help with premenstrual symptoms like cramps, bloating and nausea,” says Dr. Zanotti. “So the unwanted side effects of your period will probably return after you stop taking the pill.”

Birth control helps regulate cycles and control hormonal symptoms, so don’t be surprised if you feel like your breast are more tender right before your period or if you feel more irritable or moody.

Some women might also see the return of a menstrual migraine right before they get their period. (What a joy!)

4. Your period might be longer and heavier.

If you’ve been on the pill for a while then you’re probably used to shorter and lighter periods. But after going off the pill, you might notice that your period is heavier, longer in duration and the interval has changed. This is all normal.
“For most women on the pill – their periods are right on track and often last only a few days,” says Dr. Zanotti. “But once the hormones are gone, you might notice a change in flow and duration.”

5. You probably won’t lose weight.(Sorry!)

Weight gain is actually not a consistent side effect of the pill, explains Dr. Zanotti. Everyone is different, but research has found that being on the pill usually doesn’t cause more than a pound of weight a year.

Sure there might be some women who retain more fluid and water weight, but if you’ve gained weight while on the pill and haven’t changed much about your life style, you probably won’t see any significant weight loss once you come off it.

6. You might feel a little frisky.

Some women complain about a low sex drive while taking the pill. The good news? You could see a spike in your libido once you stop taking birth control.
“The pill can cause vaginal dryness,” says Dr. Zannotti. “So this change in discharge and natural lubrication can increase libido in some women.”

9 Things That Might Happen to Your Body When You Quit Birth Control Pills

Birth control has lots of perks: it can clear up your skin, regulate your periods, and nix PMS, not to mention prevent pregnancy. So if you’ve been popping the pill for years, it’s understandable that you might be a little nervous about what will happen to your body when you quit.

The good news? “For the most part, women don’t notice too much of a difference ,” says Alyssa Dweck, MD, a gynecologist in New York and author of the upcoming book The A to Z of the V. But if you were taking birth control for a specific reason, such as alleviating cramps or acne, you could very well see a return of those symptoms once you’re no longer on it.

RELATED: How Long Is Too Long to Be on Birth Control? Ob-Gyns Weigh In

“A lot of the changes women see go back to the reason they were taking birth control in the first place,” Dr. Dweck explains.

The side effects of stopping birth control depend on what kind you’ve been taking (combination, progestin-only, or extended-cycle) and your dosage. And two women taking the same exact pill could still have totally different experiences when they quit. Still, there are some common changes that may happen to your body when you stop taking birth control pills. Here’s what you should (and shouldn’t) expect to happen.

RELATED: 7 Health Benefits of Birth Control Nobody Talks About

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, and 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.

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, gynecology, 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.)

Your skin might break out

Combination birth control pills (the most common type), which combine estrogen 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.

“Going off birth control pills may return acne symptoms to what they were before starting birth control pills,” says Dr. Bhardwaj. If you do decide to go off the pill, there are other ways to manage your hormonal acne, like switching cleansers, reducing stress, or taking probiotic supplements.

RELATED: What to Know About the Surprising Modern History of Contraception

You might lose a bit of hair

Switching birth control pills or going off it completely could trigger telogen effluvium, a temporary condition that causes your hair to shed. Telogen effluvium usually subsides within six months, after your body has adjusted to not being on birth control. Some women who had hormonal-related hair loss (as a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome, for example) before they went on birth control might notice that it returns when they go off of the pill. All that said, hair loss is complicated, explains Dr. Dweck, and is often related to other factors, such as stress.

The bottom line? “Most women won’t see a significant net effect on their hair after stopping birth control pills,” says Josh Klein, MD, chief medical officer at Extend Fertility in New York City.

On the flip side, some women may grow more hair, but not necessarily on their heads. Dark, coarse hairs can pop up in unwanted spots like the face, back, and chest if the body produces too much androgen. PCOS is the most common culprit.

RELATED: My New Birth Control Made My Skin Go Haywire. Here’s How I Learned to Combat the Acne

Your period might be heavier and less regular

One of the biggest benefits of the pill is that it regulates your menstrual cycle. “Birth control pills typically lighten periods and decrease pain associated with periods,” says Dr. Bhardwaj. When you first stop taking oral contraceptives, it’s not unusual for your period to be a little unpredictable in terms of how heavy or light it is, how long it lasts, or how crampy you get.

“Some women who have been on the pill for many years assume their cycles are very regular,” says Dr. Klein. “But when they stop the pill, they learn their cycles are not as regular as they thought.” After two or three months, your period should return to normal, he adds.

Another surprise guest that could reappear when you quit the pill? PMS. “This is a big reason why many women go on birth control in the first place,” says Dr. Dweck. If you originally started taking the pill to ease PMS, don’t be surprised if symptoms like moodiness and irritability become more noticeable now that you’re off it.

RELATED: How to Treat Hormonal Acne Without Birth Control

Your vitamin D levels could drop

A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that many women experience a drop in vitamin D levels when they stop taking birth control pills. This is especially problematic for women who are trying to conceive, since vitamin D helps support the fetal skeleton in pregnancy.

Let your doctor know you’re quitting birth control pills, and ask about ways you can get your daily vitamin D, whether by spending more time outside (with SPF!), eating vitamin D-rich foods like fatty fish, or possibly taking a supplement.

Your boobs may feel a little different

Many women report achy breasts before their period (you can thank hormones for that—a spike in progesterone before your period stimulates growth in the milk glands, which can cause tenderness). Since birth control pills regulate your hormone levels, they may alleviate this symptom for some women. So going off the pill could mean that your breasts start to feel a little more sensitive post-ovulation, says Dr. Klein.

However, breast tenderness can also be a side effect of being on the pill, says Guirlaine Agnant, MD, chair in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Montefiore Mount Vernon Hospital in Mount Vernon, NY. If your breasts felt super-sensitive at certain times of the month when you were taking birth control, it might actually go away once you stop taking it. For these women, “stopping the pill will bring back normal breast tissue, and no tenderness should be experienced.”

You might also notice slight changes in the appearance of your breasts: “Some women will see their breasts deflate a bit when they go off the pill,” says Dr. Dweck.

RELATED: This Woman Thought Her IUD Fell Out—Until Doctors Found It In Her Abdomen 10 Years Later

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 estrogen 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.

Your libido might be affected

Dr. Agnant tells us that some of her patients complain their sex drives took a hit when they first went on the pill. “This is most likely due to changes in hormonal production,” she says, adding that these women usually experience an increase in libido when they stop taking birth control.

But again, every woman is different—and for some, sex could be more stressful without the protection from unplanned pregnancy that birth control pills offer.

“Decreasing the risk of pregnancy for a woman may allow her to enjoy the experience of sex more,” says Dr. Bhardwaj.

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What Happens When you Stop Taking Birth Control

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.

Does it take a long time for birth control hormones to leave the body?

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.

Is it possible to get pregnant immediately after stopping hormonal birth control?

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.

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. Stopping the pill or other forms of hormonal birth control that caused these side effects can lead to weight loss and also a decrease in breast size.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

What happens when you go off birth control?

Q&A with Dr. Manny: I’ve been taking birth control pills for over a decade and have recently decided to stop taking them. What happens after you stop taking the pill— should I expect any side effects?

Despite all the new contraceptive methods available like IUDs and hormonal implants, the birth control pill is still the most commonly used form. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates about 9.6 million women prefer it over other methods.

But what happens to a woman’s body when she decides to go off the pill?

We got this question from a viewer:

Dear Dr. Manny,
I’ve been taking birth control pills for over a decade and have recently decided to stop taking it. What happens after you stop taking the pill, should I expect any side effects?
Thanks,
Rebecca

Whether a woman is thinking about having a baby or is part of the 30 percent of women going pill-free over dissatisfaction, the decision should involve some planning.

Although you can stop taking birth control pills at any time, some doctors recommend that women finish their current pill pack before tossing it away. Quitting in the middle of a pack may throw your cycle off and cause some irregular bleeding or spotting.

Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) contain two female sex hormones, estrogen and progestin. The combinations of these hormones prevent ovulation and make a woman’s cervical mucus thicker to help keep sperm from going through the cervix and finding an egg.

Once a woman stops taking birth control, the synthetic hormones from the pills are usually out of their system within a few days and their periods should return within 4 to 12 weeks.

“It can take a few months for your period to return to normal. In medicine we call this ‘delayed menses’ and should be no cause for concern,” Dr. Alexandra Sowa of the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York told FoxNews.com. “There is a more rare phenomenon called post-pill amenorrhea, in which the periods don’t return, while it takes up to six months to officially receive this diagnosis, I tell my patients to check in with their doctor if their periods have not returned in about three months.”

Another reason a woman may not get her period is pregnancy. Contrary to persistent myths that long-term oral contraceptive use can affect fertility, the ability to get pregnant can return in the first month after going off the pill.

Even though ovulation can return immediately, internal hormones may not return to status quo as quickly.

“Birth control pills do a good job with ‘leveling out’ a woman’s hormones that normally fluctuate according to her ovulatory cycle. These fluctuations cause the common problems of PMS— menstrual cramps, menstrual headaches, bloating, and even heavy periods. So, stopping birth control pills may lead to all of these common symptoms,” Dr. Jabal Uffelman, a gynecologist at Transform Womans Care in Ft. Lauderdale, Flo., told FoxNews.com. “In fact, many women are taking birth control pills to control these problems, plus or minus, contraception.”

Other common side effects when coming off the birth control pill can include:

-Acne
-Breast tenderness
-Uterine cramping
-Moodiness
-Improved sexual desire

“Remember that most of the side effects of being on the birth control pill are positive ones— decrease in the risk of ovarian cancer, regular periods, marked improvement of acne, and a decrease in pelvic pain associated with endometriosis,” Dr. Jill Hechtman, an OB/GYN and medical director at Tampa Obstetrics in Brandon, Flo., told FoxNews.com.

Adverse side effects will vary from woman to woman and are typically a permanent problem if they existed before birth control use, but there are medications that can give symptomatic relief.

“Anti-inflammatory meds such as naproxen and mefenamic acid are very helpful,” Uffelman said. “Also, if the patient is not planning to get pregnant and has a reliable birth control method, a testosterone pellet is a very useful therapy to improve mood swings and PMS associated with the menstrual cycle.”
Remember, you should always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your contraception.

What to expect when going off birth control

About five years ago, I decided to stop taking the hormonal birth control I’d been on for a decade. I’d taken many different pills — from Ortho Tri-Cyclen to Apri (which I dubbed the “monster pill” for my wacko mood swings) and finally to Tri-Sprintec. I’d done my fair share of experimentation and I wanted to know: What does my body feel like on its own, without the birth control? How’s my mood? My sex drive? What’s my period like? My cramps?

I tried to think back to life before the pill — what were my periods like then? But the truth was, I had no idea. I’d been on birth control for about as long as I’d had a period. And that’s true for a lot of us, as the pill is often prescribed to us before we know our bodies well. It’s prescribed for pregnancy prevention, cramps, acne, mood swings, and headaches. According to the Guttmacher Institute, four out of five sexually active women have used the pill at some point in their lifetimes.

I spoke with Celia, 29, who transitioned from oral contraceptives to the ParaGard (a non-hormonal copper IUD): “It took awhile for my period to become regular on a 28-day cycle, but eventually it did. A few things I noticed pretty quickly were an increased sex drive (yay) and fewer mood swings. Oh, and my boobs shrank a cup size.”

Whether you’d like to stop taking hormonal birth control because it’s not working for your body, you’re sick of the side effects, you’re curious about trying a natural approach, or you’re planning to start trying for a family, there may be an adjustment period (no pun intended).

So, gather round, and let’s talk about transitioning off of the pill, hormonal IUD, vaginal ring, patch, or whatever your current hormonal BC of choice might be.

What is hormonal birth control, anyway?

When we say hormonal birth control, we’re talking about contraceptive pills, IUDs, the patch, ring, and Depo-Provera shot. Hormonal birth control uses synthetic hormones to mimic the estrogens and progesterones naturally produced in a woman’s body during pregnancy. (So, other birth control methods like condoms and spermicide wouldn’t fall into this category.)

Let’s talk about pills and IUDs specifically, since they’re two of the most popular methods:

  • Pills prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation (the release of an egg during your menstrual cycle) so that there’s no egg available to be fertilized.
  • Hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by creating a thick wall of mucus around your cervix. The thick mucus acts like a plug to the cervix, making it very difficult for the sperm to get through and fertilize an egg.

Why women quit taking birth control

Aside from trying to get pregnant, some women stop taking hormonal contraception because of how it makes them feel.

One of the biggest side effects — and most talked about — is hormonal birth control’s effect on libido (for examplle, the pill decreases production of androgens, the hormone in charge of your sex drive).

Another side effect commonly cited is on hormonal birth control’s effect on mood, anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression have been shown to fluctuate when women take hormonal birth control (for some women it makes symptoms better, for some, worse). But it’s difficult to say whether all those changes are due birth control, or whether they’re due to all of the other external factors that might impact your mental health (work, relationships, family, etc).

If you’re experiencing any of these side effects, quitting hormonal birth control might provide relief.

What happens when you quit birth control

We spoke with Kara Earthman, a women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP) from Nashville, to get the scoop on going off all types of hormonal birth control. Earthman said that side effects will vary from person to person. If your initial reason for going on birth control was to deal with menstrual cramps, heavy flows, acne, or to shorten your period, “these original problems will likely resume after stopping birth control” — and if you were using an IUD, your period will immediately resume.

Those who struggled with PMS or estrogen-withdrawal headaches in the past may see symptoms come back (the “sugar pill week” included in some birth control packs have a small amount of estrogen that keeps headaches at bay). Earthman added that anyone who experienced breast changes after starting birth control might see another shift after going off it. “Basically, expect your pre-pill body to come back in full force.”

Some birth control pills have a small amount of estrogen in the “sugar pill week” (AKA the week of placebo pills), keeping these headaches at bay. But if you didn’t have headaches before starting the pill, you probably won’t suddenly get them after stopping.

Then there’s the twinge of pelvic pain some women experience on their periods. According to Earthman, “When on pills, ovulation is suppressed. Not all women can feel when they ovulate, but some do, and once off the pill, your ovaries resume business as usual.”

After quitting birth control, there’s also an increased risk for hair loss. One study showed that hormonal contraceptives change the rate at which your hair goes from the growing phase to the resting phase, and keeps it in rest mode for longer (although it’s important to note that this study is from 1970s). Hair loss can be hereditary, but it may be exacerbated by taking birth control and then stopping.

As for gaining or losing weight post-transition? According to Earthman, the only expected change would come after stopping the Depo-Provera shot, which is sometimes linked to increased appetite.

Luckily, some women might not notice anything different after going off birth control. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that for all birth control methods, excluding the Depo-Provera shot, fertility picks right back up. “So, it’s possible to get pregnant right away,” Earthman told me. But if you’re transitioning off of the Depo-Provera shot, “it may take up to a year before your fertility (read: ovulation) is back to normal.”

And now…the benefits of quitting birth control

On the plus side, Earthman said, “If there were any aspects of your birth control that you didn’t like (mood changes, decreased libido), you may see these problems resolved.”

Going from synthetic hormones to the real stuff: how to transition off of the birth control pill or an IUD

You can stop taking the pill safely at any point in your cycle, though it can be helpful to finish a pack so you can predict your next ovulation or period if you’re looking to plan or prevent pregnancy. As for an IUD, it can also be removed at any point, though removing it during your period when the cervix is naturally softer could be a bit easier.

Your body is really resilient—once you stop taking the pill, remove the patch, or an IUD, you’ll likely get back to normal fast. Cue the sighs of relief: “There typically isn’t much of an adjustment period where your hormones are concerned. The only exception is with the Depo-Provera shot, as the progesterone will impact your hormones for at least three months following your last injection,” Earthman said.

Recommendations from the expert

Earthman has a few tips for anyone looking to mitigate the side effects after quitting hormonal contraception. If you notice acne making its triumphant return, she suggests going to the dermatologist: “There may be other tricks to keeping your skin flawless aside from birth control pills.”

If you experience painful cramping and heavy cycles, 800mg of ibuprofen will become your new best friend. According to Earthman, if you take ibuprofen every eight hours for a couple days at the onset of your period, it can reduce pain and lighten your flow. Just a friendly reminder: “This is only applicable to women who are medically able to take ibuprofen.” In those cases, Earthman recommends decreasing your intake of refined sugars and fried foods, and looking to the practice of meditation and mindfulness to help with PMS symptoms. Sometimes, she said, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can also have a powerful effect. Exercise has also been shown to be effective for cramping.

When it’s time to call the doctor

If your period doesn’t come back after two to three months after coming off birth control (diagnosed as amenorrhea), schedule a visit with your OB-GYN. For most women, though, regulation will happen within a month.

The exception here? If you were using the Depo-Provera shot, getting back to your normal cycle might take up to a year, according to Earthman.

Alternative non-hormonal contraception

For anyone looking to prevent pregnancy without taking hormonal contraceptives, you’ve got plenty of options. There’s, of course, the classic condom method, though you’ll have to remember to use one each time you have sex and it has a 15% failure rate. Similarly, you can use a diaphragm, cervical cap, or sponge whenever you want to reduce the chances of conception. If you’re hoping for another one-and-done contraceptive, the copper IUD might be the best choice for you (it’s also the most effective!).

So, if you’re ditching your pill or removing your patch, know that your body is likely to transition back to its “before” state over your next few cycles. And if you’re not feeling great, enlist your primary care provider (PCP), OB/GYN, dermatologist, some ibuprofen, or a trusty heating pad for support.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Jane van Dis, MD, FACOG. Dr. van Dis is an OB-GYN, co-founder and CEO of Equity Quotient, and Medical Director for Ob Hospitalist Group.

Consumer medicine information

BEFORE YOU TAKE YAZ

When you must not take it

Do not take YAZ if you have an allergy to

  • drospirenone and/or ethinylestradiol, the active ingredients in YAZ
  • any of the ingredients listed at the end of this leaflet.

Some of the symptoms of an allergic reaction may include:

  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing or difficulty in breathing
  • swelling of the face, lips, tongue or other parts of the body
  • rash, itching or hives on the skin.

Do not take YAZ if you are taking antiviral medicines which contain ombitasvir, paritaprevir, or dasabuvir, and combinations of these. These antiviral medicines are used to treat chronic (long-term) hepatitis C (an infectious disease that affects the liver, caused by the hepatitis C virus).

Do not take YAZ if you have or have had a blood clot in:

  • the blood vessels of the legs (deep vein thrombosis – DVT)
  • the lungs (pulmonary embolism – PE)
  • the heart (heart attack)
  • the brain (stroke)
  • other parts of the body.

Do not take YAZ if you have or are concerned about an increased risk of blood clots. Blood clots are rare. Very occasionally blood clots may cause serious permanent disabilities, or may even be fatal.

You are more at risk of having a blood clot when you take the Pill. But the risk of having a blood clot when taking the Pill is less than the risk during pregnancy.

Do not take YAZ if you are concerned about an increased risk of blood clots because of age or smoking. The risk of having a heart attack or stroke increases as you get older. It also increases if you smoke. You should stop smoking when taking the Pill, especially if you are older than 35 years of age.

Do not take YAZ if you have, or have had:

  • any blood clotting disorders such as Protein C deficiency, Protein S deficiency, Leiden Factor V mutation, Antithrombin III deficiency or other inherited blood clotting conditions
  • a confirmed blood test showing:
    – increased levels of homocysteine
    – antiphospholipid antibodies (APLAs) e.g. anticardiolipin-antibodies and lupus anticoagulant. These may increase your risk for blood clots or pregnancy losses (miscarriage)
  • major surgery after which you have not been able to move around for a period of time
  • angina (chest pain)
  • mini stroke (also known as TIA or transient ischaemic attack)
  • severe kidney insufficiency or an acute failure of your kidney
  • migraine, where you have also had problems with seeing, speaking or had weakness or numbness in any part of your body
  • high risk of blood clots due to conditions such as diabetes with blood vessel damage, severe high blood pressure or severe high or low level of fats in your blood
  • pancreatitis (an inflammation of the pancreas) associated with high levels of fatty substances in your blood
  • severe liver disease and your liver function has not returned to normal
  • cancer that may grow under the influence of sex hormones (e.g. of the breast or the genital organs)
  • a benign or malignant liver tumour
  • unexplained vaginal bleeding.

If any of these conditions appear for the first time while using the Pill, stop taking it at once and tell your doctor. In the meantime use non-hormonal (barrier) methods of contraception (such as condoms or a diaphragm).

Do not take this medicine if you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant.

Do not give this medicine to a child.

Do not take this medicine after the expiry date printed on the pack and blister. The expiry date is printed on the carton and on each blister after “EXP” (e.g. 11 18 refers to November 2018). The expiry date refers to the last day of that month. If it has expired return it to your pharmacist for disposal.

Do not take this medicine if the packaging is torn or shows signs of tampering. If the packaging is damaged, return it to your pharmacist for disposal.

If you are not sure whether you should start taking this medicine, talk to your doctor.

Before you start to take it

Tell your doctor if you have allergies to any other medicines, foods, preservatives or dyes.

Tell your doctor if:

  • you smoke
  • you or anyone in your immediate family has had blood clots in the legs (DVT) or lungs (PE), a heart attack, a stroke, breast cancer or high cholesterol.

Tell your doctor if you have, or have had any of the following medical conditions:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • heart valve disorders or certain heart rhythm disorders
  • migraine
  • an increased potassium blood level (e.g. due to problems with your kidney/s) and also use diuretics or other drugs that may increase the potassium in your blood
  • cancer
  • hyperhomocysteinaemia, a condition characterised by high levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood.

Ask your doctor to check if you:

  • are overweight
  • have any hereditary or acquired conditions that may make it more likely for you to get blood clots
  • have high cholesterol or triglycerides
  • have liver disease
  • have kidney disease
  • have high potassium in your blood
  • have jaundice (yellowing of the skin) and/or pruritus (itching of the skin) related to cholestasis (condition in which the flow of bile from the liver stops or slows)
  • have gall bladder disease
  • have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis (chronic inflammatory bowel disease)
  • have systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE – a disease affecting the skin all over the body)
  • have haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS– a disorder of blood coagulation causing failure of the kidneys)
  • have sickle cell disease
  • have a condition that occurred for the first time, or worsened during pregnancy or previous use of sex hormones (e.g. hearing loss, a metabolic disease called porphyria, a skin disease called herpes gestationis, a neurological disease called Sydenham’s chorea)
  • have chloasma (yellowish-brown pigmentation patches on the skin, particularly of the face) – if so, avoid exposure to the sun or ultraviolet radiation
  • have hereditary angio-oedema – you should see your doctor immediately if you experience symptoms of angio-oedema, such as swollen face, tongue and/or pharynx and/or difficulty swallowing, or hives together with difficulty in breathing.

If any of the above conditions appear for the first time, recur or worsen while taking YAZ, you should tell your doctor.

Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding. YAZ is generally not recommended if you are breastfeeding.

YAZ contains lactose monohydrate. If you have an intolerance to some sugars, tell your doctor before you start taking YAZ.

If you have not told your doctor about any of the above, tell him/her before you start taking YAZ.

Taking other medicines

Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking any other medicines, including any that you get without a prescription from your pharmacy, supermarket or health food shop.

Some medicines and YAZ may interfere with each other. These include:

  • medicines used to treat tuberculosis such as rifampicin, rifabutin
  • macrolide antibiotics (e.g. clarithromycin, erythromycin)
  • medicines used to treat fungal infections, such as griseofulvin, ketoconazole
  • medicines used to treat HIV, such as ritonavir or nevirapine
  • some medicines used to treat Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) such as boceprevir, telaprevir,
  • medicines used to treat epilepsy such as phenytoin, primidone, barbiturates (e.g. phenobarbitone), carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine, topiramate, felbamate, lamotrigine
  • cyclosporin, an immunosuppressant medicine
  • medicines used to treat high blood pressure, chest pain and/or irregular heartbeats such as diltiazem, verapamil
  • etoricoxib, an anti-inflammatory medicine used to treat pain
  • tizanidine, melatonin or midazolam which are medicines that relax the body
  • theophylline, a medicine that helps with breathing
  • herbal medicines containing St John’s Wort
  • grapefruit juice.

These medicines may be affected by YAZ, or may affect how well it works. Your doctor may need to alter the dose of these medicines, or prescribe a different medicine.

Some medicines

  • can have an influence on the blood levels of YAZ
  • can make it less effective in preventing pregnancy
  • can cause unexpected bleeding.

You might have an increase in potassium in the blood if you are taking YAZ with medicines that may increase potassium levels in the blood. These include:

  • medicines used to treat high blood pressure, such as ACE inhibitors, angiotensin-II-receptor antagonists and diuretics
  • certain anti-inflammatory medicines, such as indomethacin
  • aldosterone antagonists, such as spironolactone and eplerenone.

In a study of women taking drospirenone together with an ACE inhibitor, no significant differences were observed in the potassium levels when compared to the placebo.

You may need to use additional barrier methods of contraception (such as condoms or a diaphragm) while you are taking any of these medicines and for some time after stopping them. Your doctor will be able to tell you how long you will need to use additional contraceptive methods.

Your doctor and pharmacist have more information on medicines that you need to be careful with or avoid while taking this medicine.

You probably felt a few changes when you started taking birth control pills, like nausea or tender breasts. So it makes sense that you may feel different again when you stop taking them.

Any type of hormone-based birth control can change how you feel, whether it’s pills, the patch, a vaginal ring (Annovera, NuvaRing), hormonal IUDs (Kyleena, Liletta, Mirena, Skyla), injections (Depo-Provera) or an implanted rod (Nexplanon). Everybody’s different, and some of the effects you notice might depend on symptoms you had before you started taking the pill. But a few changes are common:

1. You could get pregnant. And before you say, “Duh,” keep in mind that it could happen sooner than you think. Many women think it takes a long time to conceive after they stop the pill, but research shows pregnancy rates are about the same as those for women who had used barrier methods (like condoms). Up to 96% of former pill-users got pregnant within a year. And in one study, more than half were pregnant at 6 months. But it may take more time — up to a year — after you stop injections like Depo-Provera.

2. Your cycle may get wacky. Even if your periods were like clockwork before you started birth control, it might take a few months for them to straighten out after you stop. And if you had irregular periods, you’ll probably be off-kilter again — the reliable schedule you enjoyed (or the long breaks between periods) came from the hormones in the pill. If your periods stopped altogether, it may take a few months for them to start up again.

3. Your periods could be heavier and crampier. If you had lots of bleeding and pain before you started, it’s likely your problems will return. But if you started as a teenager and now you’re in your late 30s or 40s, you may not go back to that kind of heavy flow.

4. PMS may come back, too. The pill, especially some formulas, helps your body level out the hormonal chaos that can make you feel depressed, anxious, and irritable. Without that balancing, you may start feeling moody again.

Weight gain after stopping birth control

Some women gain weight after stopping birth control, although this isn’t common. If you gain weight when you stop taking birth control, a healthy diet and exercise can help you get back to your previous weight.

Bleeding after stopping birth control

If you go off birth control pills in the middle of your cycle, you may experience bleeding slight spotting or bleeding before your next period. However, irregular bleeding after stopping birth control is a temporary phenomenon and should go away after a few months.

Cramps after stopping birth control

If you stop taking birth control pills midway through your cycle, you may experience cramping. For many, birth control pills minimize cramps. Once you stop taking the pill, you may feel cramping even when you don’t have your period for a while, and if you had cramps before you were on the pill, they may come back.

When will you get your first period after stopping birth control?

Most women will get their first period around two to four weeks after coming off the pill if they stop taking it in the middle of a pack. However, this can vary depending on what your monthly cycle is like. Weight, stress, health, exercise, and conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can also all affect your cycle.

Ovulation after stopping birth control

For many people, ovulation will start within a few weeks of quitting birth control pills. However, this can take longer, especially if you were using the shot for birth control.

Your health, the type of birth control you were taking, and how long you were taking it can all affect the amount of time it will take to restore hormonal balance, regular menstruation, and fertility.

You can track symptoms of ovulation, such as cervical fluid and basal body temperature, in the Flo app to get a more accurate prediction of when or if you’re ovulating.

Birth control pills can help women control their own fertility by preventing unwanted pregnancies. If you would like to stop taking birth control for whatever reason, it’s possible that you may experience irregular periods, cramps, and bleeding. The good news is these side effects are temporary and should go away once your body gets used to new levels of hormones.

The Birth Control Pill Got Your Libido?

This was something Paige wasn’t too happy about either. You see, her doctor had told her the answer to her low libido was as simple as stopping that pill. However, as a doctor who has helped thousands of women recover their hormones after using synthetic birth control, I can assure that you that a missing libido post-pill is more the norm. And just like your mood, the only way to get your libido back is to kick that pill and to take steps to reset your hormones.

Eating libido supportive foods like dark chocolate, pineapple, spinach, and oysters are beneficial foods to get you and your libido back together.

Nourishing your adrenals is a huge part of your overall hormone health, including reclaiming your sex life, which is why it is one of the key topics I address in my Post-Birth Control Hormone Reset Program. For Paige adaptogens, along with a hormone friendly diet and daily mind-body practices were exactly what she needed to get her libido back on-line and take her orgasms to the next level. (Yes, women report better orgasms off the pill!)

6 Positive Side Effects of Stopping The Pill

Better Moods

For some women, coming off the pill does mean better moods and better libidos. For Paige, one of the biggest benefits she saw when she kicked that birth control pill was that her anxiety disappeared.

Well, Hello Sex Drive!

While she was understandably frustrated about her libido at first, Paige was excited the day she realized that her need for lube had reduced because she was no longer experiencing issues with vaginal dryness.

You see, the birth control pill can lead to vaginal dryness, which means a gal can need some extra support for that bow chicka wow wow. If that is true for you, be sure to opt for phthalates and petroleum free products. If you’re wondering if green lube is a big deal—it is.

Paige supported her hormones, experimented with her partner and reclaimed her libido in a big way!

Yeast & Other Vaginal Infections

Paige also had way less vaginal irritation and itching. For as long as she could remember she had needed to treat a vaginal infection at least a couple times per year and her underwear had always felt a bit uncomfortable. “I had to be militant about my after sex routine or I’d end up with a UTI or yeast infection,” she shared.

If you’re a woman who experienced chronic vaginal infections while on the pill, coming off of it may mean no more infections and a lot happier vagina.

Weight Loss

Some women gain weight on the pill. If that’s true for you, one of the best ways to start kicking those extra pounds is to lose that highly inflammatory pill. While research has shown a moderate increase in weight on the pill, there are many women who report gaining 5-10 lbs that just won’t budge until they stop the pill.

Energy Boost

The pill robs you of the nutrients your cells need to make energy, plus seriously hinder the hormones that help you with your “get up and go!” Many women report their energy levels gradually increase after stopping the pill. Of course, the added boost of adaptogens we gave Paige definitely helped her reclaim her energy and avoid those afternoon crashes.

Incredible Hair, Skin, and Nails

Paige started out losing hair, but within 6 months her head was covered in the fuzzy joyous sign of new hair growth! Some women experience increased acne with certain hormonal contraceptives, and others experience hair loss and other skin symptoms. Whatever your symptoms, they have a root cause and you can support your body in healing.

Paige was able to clear her skin, bump her natural glow and grow some luscious locks.

How to Reset Your Hormones Post Birth Control

While Paige’s skin and heavy painful periods may have seemed like a big burden for her to bear, it was actually providing us incredibly useful data for us to biohack her hormones and reset her cycle. Here’s what we did to get Paige’s hormones back on track.

Hormone Friendly Diet

Step one was to replenish Paige’s nutrients big time. We got Paige eating a whole foods diet, focusing on anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense foods to replenish her nutrient stores that were depleted by the pill. Because she had been on it for so long without any nutritional support on hand, we also started Paige on a prenatal. Her blood work revealed she was low in her iron stores, although not yet anemic. This was likely due to her heavy periods. Supplementing with iron helped her prevent anemia and her periods from becoming heavier. This was also part of the secret sauce in getting her hormones back on track.

Within weeks, Paige’s energy was up. She said that she was feeling more motivated and her colleagues had noted that she was sharper at work. “I’m on fire and have never felt more on top of life,” she explained at a follow-up visit.

Hormone Detox Support

We got Paige going on some much-needed estrogen detox support. Paige’s symptoms and labs all pointed to estrogen dominance, so step was making sure that her liver was well equipped with the best nutrients to help package up that estrogen and move it out.

Including more vegetables in the broccoli and onion family, along with a 14-Day professional grade detox program helped support Paige’s natural detox pathways.

This benefited her skin, and helped her reduce her cramps and heavy bleeding by clearing estrogen.

Hormone Focused Mind-Body Medicine

We also got Paige rolling with some mind-body support. We needed to drop stress and get it out of the way so that she could get back to ovulating and get her progesterone levels up. Decreasing stress can help increase progesterone, which is opposed all that extra estrogen. Paige was dealing with low progesterone, estrogen dominance and way too many stress hormones. But she was able to 180 that business with some simple daily mind-body practices.

Stopping Birth Control Pills & Minimizing Side Effects

After three months on my protocol, Paige’s skin was looking better than it had before and her periods were completely manageable. She was no longer having to pack an extra change of clothes to work or change her Diva Cup multiple times a day the first few days of her period. This was a huge relief for her.

After relying on the birth control pill to control her acne and periods for so long, Paige was glad to be back in her body and in tune with her hormones once again. And for the first time without the pill she had one of those “easy periods” she had heard about.

While the side effects of kicking the pill may seem too overwhelming, I want you to know I have your back in my Birth Control Hormone Reset Program™. It is possible to balance your hormones naturally and even though it might seem scary, there are some serious benefits to ditching that birth control pill.

Birth Control Hormone Reset™

Discover how to get off birth control, kick your unwanted hormone symptoms, and ditch those period problems for good!

In this 5 week program, you’ll receive daily guidance to help guide you and your body back to better hormones. Within this program we support women who are on hormonal birth control, coming off hormones or struggling with the long-term side effects associated with hormonal birth control.

You’ll receive the right information at the right time to help your skin clear, moods lift and energy elevated.

I invite you to explore all the benefits that come with blissful hormones that are in balance. Learn more about the Birth Control Hormone Reset.

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is one of the leading experts in women’s medicine and is a pioneer in her exploration of the far-reaching impact of hormonal birth control and the little known side effects that impact health in a large way. In her best selling book, Beyond the Pill, she shares her clinical protocols aimed at supporting women struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance, including Post-Birth Control Pill Syndrome and birth control related side effects. A trained nutritional biochemist and Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Brighten is the founder and Clinic Director at Rubus Health, an integrative women’s medicine clinic. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and has been featured in prominent media outlets such as Forbes, Cosmopolitan, ABC news, and the New York Post. Read more about me here.

What happens if you stop taking birth control pills mid pack?

When a person stops taking the birth control pill, the pill’s hormones quickly leave the body. Gradually, the body’s natural hormones will resume regulating the menstrual cycle. Most people have their first period about 2–4 weeks after coming off the pill. However, it can take up to 3 months for the natural menstrual cycle to fully reestablish itself.

In some cases, a hormone dysregulation may develop while a person is using the birth control pill, which will mask the symptoms. Anyone who finds that their cycle has not returned to normal after a few months should see a doctor.

Effects on pregnancy risk

Birth control pills work by preventing ovulation, which is the process by which the body releases an egg. The pills also thicken the mucus of the cervix. As a result, even if ovulation does occur, it is more difficult for sperm to reach the egg.

As birth control pills suppress ovulation, removing these hormones from the body can trigger ovulation. In theory, ovulation could occur straight after coming off the pill. In this case, immediate pregnancy is a possibility.

The actual timing of ovulation depends on when in the cycle a person stops using birth control pills, as well as their overall fertility.

Effects on fertility

A 2018 meta-analysis looked at 22 studies on people’s fertility after stopping the use of birth control pills. The authors concluded that:

  • birth control pills do not affect long-term fertility
  • the duration of use of birth control pills is not a significant predictor of fertility
  • there is no significant delay in the return of fertility after stopping the use of birth control pills

An earlier study investigated the length of time that it took for fertility to return following continuous use of the birth control pill levonorgestrel for a year. Of the 187 participants who took part in the study, 98.9% began ovulating within 90 days of stopping the pill. The average time that it took the participants to return to ovulation was 32 days.

This finding suggests that although some users may experience a delay in fertility after stopping the birth control pill, most will quickly become fertile again.

In a second study investigating fertility following continuous use of levonorgestrel, 52% of the 21 participants who wanted to become pregnant did so within 3 months of stopping this pill. Within 13 months, 86% became pregnant. These pregnancy rates are similar to those of the general population.

Table of Contents

Many women start taking birth control when they are teenagers and continue it for a long time before they decide to stop. Whether you are stopping birth control because you want to get pregnant, or are just looking to make a change, you should know what to expect as your body adjusts.

Before we dive into what happens when you stop taking birth control, here’s a list of some of the most common types of hormonal birth control:

All of these methods contain various types of hormones. Some are progesterone-only, some are estrogen-only, and some are a combination of both, which work on the body to prevent pregnancy.

When you stop taking these hormones, you should be aware of the things that can happen to your body, both right away and in the months following your stopping of birth control.

Please be aware that this article only focuses on hormonal birth control methods like birth control pills, implants, IUDs, and shots. Non-hormonal birth control methods such as diaphragms, cervical caps, copper IUDs, condoms and others will not have the same effects on your body when you start or stop using them and this information is not relevant to non-hormonal types of birth control.

So, what exactly happens if you stop taking birth control?

You Could Get Pregnant Right Away

Firstly, you can get pregnant. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to note that this change happens almost immediately.

Some women think that it will take a while to be able to get pregnant when stopping birth control, but this isn’t always the case – the hormones stop working almost immediately and so in theory, you can get pregnant immediately.

If you don’t want to get pregnant but are going off your routine birth control, always use extra protection, such as condoms, during sex.

You Might Not Get Pregnant Right Away

On the flip side, you may not get pregnant right away either!

This might sound counterintuitive to our previous point, but every woman’s body is different, so there is no way to tell exactly how your body will react when going off birth control.

For women trying to get pregnant, most medical professionals suggest waiting 3-4 months to give your body time to start ovulating properly before trying to get pregnant.

When coming off birth control, it may be hard to track your ovulation and menstruation cycles as it will take time for your body to get back into a normal cycle. If you don’t get pregnant right away after stopping birth control, don’t worry. This is completely normal. Your ovulation cycle might need a bit of time to adjust.

Read: Get Birth Control Prescription Online

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.You might see irregular spotting, lighter periods than you’re used to or a heavier flow, a longer or shorter period, or no periods 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, contact your doctor to see if anything else is causing the problem.

Your Period May Return to What It Was Like Before Birth Control

Remember the days of mood swings, acne, and cramps before you started birth control? Well, those might be back again after you stop taking birth control.

In addition to helping prevent pregnancy, birth control also helps with many period symptoms, including hormonal swings, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), acne, and others. When you stop taking birth control, these symptoms may return.

On a more positive note, you might also stop experiencing some unwanted side effects from birth control. Some birth control methods can make women gain weight, get headaches, suffer from bloating and get many other unpleasant symptoms. When you stop taking birth control, these symptoms will likely disappear.

Your Period May Not Return to What It Was Like Before Birth Control

Again, counterintuitively your period might not return to what it used to be! Especially for women who started taking birth control in their teens and are now in their late 20s, 30s, or even 40s, your periods have probably changed.

As you get older, your flow might lighten, you might have less cramps, or you might experience fewer of the PMS symptoms you had as a teenager.

Read: How To Get Birth Control Without A Doctor

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 is 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. Remember this if you are trying to get pregnant – it may take a while if you have been using the birth control injection.

You May Have an Increased Sex Drive

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 estrogen and progesterone, 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!

Different Types of Discharge

Vaginal discharge is something that is not often discussed because it is a bit squeamish, 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 progesterone, 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 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.

Read: Where and How To Get Birth Control Pills

Your Body Will Change

When you stop taking birth control, you may see your body change in a variety of ways.

One main thing you might notice is your breasts may decrease in size, especially if they got significantly larger when you were on birth control. Many birth control types that have high levels of estrogen can increase the size of your breasts and when those levels of estrogen decrease, they will return to their original size.

You may also notice a change in weight. Some birth controls cause women to gain weight because of the change in hormones.

When you stop birth control, this effect will go away and you might find you lose some weight. Of course, this will not be the case if you have put on weight because you changed your diet or exercise routine while on birth control.

If your breasts have gotten bigger or you have gained weight because of a change in lifestyle, going off birth control will have little to do with this. If you are looking to lose weight, changing your diet and exercise routine will be much more effective.

You Might Still Have Protection from Some Types of Cancer and Other Issues

One of the most beneficial side effects of birth control is that long-time use lowers your risk for some cancers, including ovarian and endometrial cancer. If you took it for a long time, this protection may continue after you stop. The same can be said for some types of non-cancerous breast issues, like fibrocystic breast disease and fibroids. Do remember that birth control can also increase the risk of some types of cancer, and this increase in risk may not go away after you stop taking birth control.

You Might Lose (or Gain!) Some Hair

Going off of birth control could trigger a temporary condition called ‘telogen effluvium’ that causes your hair to shed.

This side effect usually goes away within six months of stopping birth control, after your body has adjusted. Some women who had hormonal-related hair loss before they started taking birth control might notice that it returns when they go off of the pill.

However, hair loss is one of those complicated bodily functions that can have many causes, including stress.

Conversely, some women may grow more hair, but mostly in unwanted spots. Dark, coarse hairs can appear on the face, back, and chest if the body produces too much androgen, another hormone.

Your Vitamin D Levels Could Decrease

Some researchers have found that certain birth control can increase the amount of vitamin D in your body, and so you may experience a drop in vitamin D levels when you stop taking birth control. For women trying to get pregnant, this can cause a problem because vitamin D is really important in helping the baby’s skeleton form while still in the womb.

Vitamin D also contributes to general overall health, especially if you are trying to get pregnant. Talk to your doctor about ways to get more vitamin D, including spending time outside, eating vitamin D-rich foods, such as fish, or taking a supplement or vitamin.

Coming off birth control

Starting and going off birth control is a personal decision for every women and it’s really important to know what to expect when you stop taking birth control. Birth control contains various hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, and stopping these hormones can have many effects on your body.

The most important things to remember when coming off birth control:

As your hormone levels go back to normal, you may experience some of the same period symptoms you had before going on birth control.

Your body will adjust to these normalized levels of hormones, which may include a decrease in breast size and possibly a little weight loss.

Without the help of birth control, your natural hormone spikes may cause increased acne, PMS, bloating, moodiness, weight fluctuation, and more.

If you had any unwanted symptoms while on birth control, such as headaches, nausea, or weight gain, these symptoms will likely go away when you stop taking birth control.

There is every chance you can get pregnant right away! The hormones in birth control only take a few days to leave your system.

If you want to stop taking birth control but don’t want to get pregnant, make sure to use another form of protection.

If you want to come off your birth control and need the advice and support of a doctor, or want to discuss an alternative, make an appointment with a PlushCare doctor here.

Birth Control Quiz

Think you know all there is to know about birth control? Test your knowledge with our birth control quiz.

It’s Ok to use birth control pills to delay or skip your period.

TRUE or FALSE Click to Flip True! There is no evidence that using birth control pills to delay or skip your period is harmful. Doctors recommend you let your body have a period every few months just to make sure everything is normal. Some women may experience spotting as a side effect.

Birth control pills will make you gain weight.

TRUE or FALSE Click to Flip False. Not all birth control pills make you gain weight. While some women may experience weight gain when taking birth control pills, it is a myth that this is a common side effect of birth control.

Birth control may be less effective for those with a BMI over 30.

TRUE or FALSE Click to Flip True. Research shows that women with a body mass index over 30 are at an increased risk of pregnancy even when taking the pill. If your BMI is over 30 talk to your doctor about other methods of birth control such as a copper IUD.

The pill can be used as more than just a contraceptive.

TRUE or FALSE Click to Flip True. The pill can be used to treat cramps, acne, mood swings and more. If you have something bothering you as a result of hormone changes then you may benefit from certain types of birth control pills. Talk to your doctor about your options.

You can get pregnant during the week of placebo pills.

TRUE or FALSE Click to Flip False. You are not at a higher risk of getting pregnant when you are taking the week of placebo pills. When taken correctly birth control pills are up to 99% effective.

You can stop taking birth control any time you want.

TRUE or FALSE Click to Flip True. If you decide you want to stop taking birth control, for whatever reason, you can! Regardless of where you are in your cycle, your general health will not be affected. Of course once you stop using birth control you are at risk of pregnancy, you may also experience shifts in your cycle, bleeding and spotting.

Birth control only comes in pill form.

TRUE or FALSE Click to Flip False. There are many different forms of birth control, from condoms to pills to IUDs, patches and implants, the list goes on. Each method of birth control has different side effects and benefits. Talk to a doctor about which method of birth control is best for you.

Some forms of birth control may impact cholesterol levels.

TRUE or FALSE Click to Flip True. Some types of birth control pills have been shown to impact cholesterol levels. The degree to which cholesterol levels are affected depends on how much estrogen and progestin are in the pills. Generally the change is not big enough to affect overall health.

It’s OK to smoke tobacco products and take birth control pills at the same time.

TRUE or FALSE Click to Flip False. Using tobacco products and some forms of birth control can increase your risk of blood clots, stroke and heart attacks. Using birth control pills while smoking restricts blood flow to the heart and constricts blood vessels.

Certain antibiotics can reduce the effectiveness of birth control.

TRUE or FALSE Click to Flip True. Though this is only a problem when using the antibiotic rifampin, which is not commonly used today. You should always let your doctor know all medications you are taking before receiving a new prescription.

Learn More About Birth Control Here

  • How Do Birth Control Pills Work?
  • Missed Birth Control Pill: What Does This Mean?
  • How To Get Free Birth Control
  • Non-Hormonal Birth Control Options Explained
  • Birth Control and Your Period: Your Questions Answered

Sources

Planned Parenthood. Birth Control. Accessed October 28, 2019 at https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control

Sex Wise. Contraception. Accessed October 28, 2019 at https://www.sexwise.fpa.org.uk/contraception

Birth Control: What Happens To My Body When I Stop Taking The Pill?

Period Returning After Stopping

If you do choose to stop taking the pill, know that it can take about four to six weeks for your period to return to normal. If you still haven’t gotten back to normal after three months, contact your doctor. This might be a light adjustment period for some women.

Weight and Other Bodily Results

Here are some of the bodily changes (or lack thereof) that may take place when you stop taking the pill:

  • Harsher period symptoms: The pill changes your hormone levels, which can often reduce PMS and period symptom intensity. When you stop taking it, however, these kinds of symptoms may return in full force.
  • Weight: The birth control pill is considered weight-neutral. Most people do not gain or lose weight on it, and those who do often see the gains or losses replaced in the same amount when they stop taking the pill. This does not include weight gain that might come from lifestyle choices like giving in to PMS-driven food cravings, however.
  • Testosterone: The pill limits testosterone production, which will go back up after you stop. This could result in acne flare-ups or extra hair growth, but it also usually boosts your sex drive. Some women may experience hair loss.
  • Trying to conceive: If you’re stopping the pill in an attempt to conceive a baby, it’s recommended to stop about three months in advance. You should also consider vitamin B and folic acid supplements. If you get pregnant in the first month coming off the pill, you’ll be at slightly higher chance of conceiving twins.
  • Pain: You might have mid-cycle pain that’s common with ovulation once you stop the pill.

Other Questions

Here are answers to a few other important questions in terms of the pill:

  • What happens if I take the pill while pregnant accidentally? Don’t fret here – there’s little to no evidence of birth defects resulting from this happening. Once you discover this, however, stop taking the pill.
  • Can I stop at any time? It doesn’t really matter much whether you finish your current pill packet or just decide to stop midway through.
  • Can women over 35 keep taking the pill? Yes, though this is not recommended if you smoke, due to higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

Your doctor can offer further recommendations on stopping birth control pills at your request.

Quitting hormonal birth control can be a bumpy ride for some women. Learn how to re-balance your hormones naturally with self-care tips, herbs, and supplements in this article.

Excited to become a mom, Elise, 34, came to see me in my medical practice, so frustrated that getting pregnant wasn’t going at all the way she thought it would. What she felt should have been an exciting time for her and her partner, had become an anxiety-provoking, stressful one. Two years after going off “the pill,” which she’d been on to “regulate her cycle,” since she was a teenager, she’d barely had a regular period – instead she’d go months between scanty periods, then have a major ‘blow out,” then again, nothing for months. On top of it, she was experiencing cystic acne and weight gain, neither of which had been a problem for her before the pill! She was feeling pretty desperate, and worse with each new announcement from a friend that a baby was on the way. She and her husband were in the early stages of exploring fertility treatments.

Together we discovered that Elise had PCOS, the likely cause of her irregular periods that led to her being started on the pill in the first place – but which had never been recognized and diagnosed. A few months of dietary changes, nutrients and herbal treatments, and acupuncture not only returned her cycle and eased her symptoms, but to her delight, Elise became pregnant without having to go through the often arduous process of fertility treatments, as she was anticipating she’d have to.

The introduction of oral contraceptives in the 1960s was a major breakthrough for women, giving us more autonomy, freedom, and reproductive choice. A woman’s choice to go on or off the pill is her own, and I support all women and their choices. To learn more about the potential risks associated with the pill, head over here.

If you, like Elise, have decided it’s time to come off the pill – whether because you’re ready to get pregnant, you’re concerned about the potential health risks of hormonal birth control, or you’re ready to try a different form of contraception, have no fear. Most women transition off it without much problem. But if you have come off it – or have heard horror stories about hormone imbalances – it’s still going to be fine! You’re not doomed to a life of hormonal imbalances. With the targeted strategies I walk you through in this article, you can reset your hormone balance so that you, too, have healthy, natural cycles – not pill imposed ones – and in not too long a time.

Is Post-Pill Syndrome a ‘Thing’?

I first coined the term “post-OC (oral contraceptive) syndrome,” in 2008 in my textbook, Botanical Medicine for Women’sHealth, as one of the possible causes of irregular periods and other hormonal symptoms in women coming off of birth control. To be clear, there is no formal condition known as post-OC or post-pill syndrome, and there is controversy over the extent to which women experience symptoms. Statistically, most women – at least 80 percent – regain hormonal balance within three months of stopping the pill. However, it often does take that long, and not all women do find that balance – even as far as 6 months after stopping them.

Some women experience a bumpy ride coming off the pill. Like Elise, they’ve experienced delayed return of fertility, acne, heavy periods, no periods at all, cramps, and more. They’ve also likely discovered that conventional medicine has little to offer them.

So what’s really going on?

Well, there are a few issues at hand.

One is that there is a known gap between what science demonstrates and what women experience. (For more on how women get sidelined by conventional medicine, check out How Medical Gender Bias is Killing Women and How to Save Your Own Life).

Also, as Elise’s story illustrates, so many stories of women I’ve worked with who come off the pill are actually experiencing a recurrence of old hormonal imbalances. This is not surprising given that 50% of all women on the pill are on it for non-contraceptive reasons – they are usually put on it for irregular periods, acne, mood swings, heavy bleeding, or other symptoms of hormone imbalance that the pill suppresses.

There are a handful, as well, who find themselves unexpectedly and to their dismay – experiencing new symptoms post-pill.

After stopping the pill, here are some of the most common symptoms women have come to me for help with:

Irregular or skipped periods. When menstrual bleeding returns, it’s erratic – or, as Elise experienced, sometimes it doesn’t return at all for quite some time. This may be because periods were irregular before starting the pill or because of a interrupted communication between the ovaries and the hypothalamus (the part of the brain that helps regulate bodily processes).

Heavy menstrual bleeding. This symptom is especially common if you went on the pill to regulate your period or ease heavy bleeding in the first place. That’s because the pill doesn’t address the Root Causes of heavy bleeding. Rather, it limits the growth of the uterine lining and blocks ovulation – resulting in a controlled monthly bleed that is more of a hormonal breakthrough bleed and not quite the same as a normal menstrual period. When you go off the pill, heavy bleeding can return if you had it before, or you can experience it anew as your body establishes its own natural hormone balance.

Ovulation pain and menstrual cramps. Because ovulation is suppressed by the pill, you don’t experience ovulation pain when you’re on it. Birth control pills also suppress both the amount of prostaglandins – the chemical that contributes to menstrual cramps – your body produces, and the amount of bleeding you experience – which combined, means you’re less likely to experience period cramps on the pill, too. But after they can return with a vengeance.

Breakouts. Oral contraceptives reduce the amount of testosterone produced by the body. Testosterone is associated with acne (this is often why teenage boys have more severe acne than teenage girls) and as your levels return to normal, zits can come along with it. Post-pill acne is especially common if you started taking birth control to ease acne symptoms in the first place but I’ve had several patients who’d never experienced acne prior, and discovered the misery of it in their late 20s and 30s after stopping the pill.

Bloating: The progestin in some pills acts as a diuretic, so some women retain fluid after coming off the pill. This resolves over time as you re-establish natural hormone balance, but can initially make you feel puffier, fatter, and can show up as additional pounds on your scale or feeling that your clothes are tighter.

Mood Swings: While the pill itself can initially cause more than usual moodiness, so can going off of it as your body moves away from a carefully controlled daily dose of hormones from the pill, to your own ebbs and flows. This is particularly the case if you had PMS before going on the pill, but can occur regardless. Also, keep in mind that if you’ve been on the pill for years, you’ve changed in those years – and our hormones are very different in our teens, 20s, 30s, and 40s.

Nutrient Deficiency: While not a symptom in itself, nutritional deficiencies can cause a host of symptoms – including hormonal imbalances. They are also a problem for women who come off the pill hoping to get pregnant right away because low nutrient status has been associated with fertility problems, and low nutrients in mom can also mean low nutrients in baby. The pill has been associated with robbing a number of nutrients including B vitamins and magnesium. A recent study also found that vitamin D levels drop soon after stopping the pill. In fact, vitamin D levels were 20% lower in women who’d just come off the pill than in those no longer on it.

What Happens in the Body On – and Off – the Pill

Oral contraceptives impose a very specific type of hormonal control over the body. While they can regulate our cycles and control many hormonal symptoms, they do so by suppressing our natural cycles of ovulation, menstruation, and hormonal fluctuation. Placebo pills for the last 5 days of the cycle lead to a breakthrough bleed, not a true menstrual period. If you’re on a complete suppressive plan, you may “menstruate” as infrequently as every 3 to 12 months, depending on the type of pill you’re taking – and these too are breakthrough bleeds, not real periods.

You can experience post-pill symptoms whether you’ve been on the pill for a couple months or many years, though in my experience, women who’ve been on for several or more years – and certainly those on it for close to or over a decade, which is incredibly common – are more likely to experience more pronounced hormonal imbalances when they come off the pill.

If you went on the pill to address acne or an irregular cycle, the pill may have simply buried your symptoms. When you come off the pill, there’s a good chance that you’re still dealing with those same imbalances, which may have gotten more pronounced over time because the Root Causes weren’t addressed..

If you went on the pill for birth control, you may not have been suppressing a specific medical condition or symptoms, but a condition or set of symptoms might also have emerged during your time on the pill that were masked by the pill. And if you’re stopping the pill to get pregnant, like Elise you may find that you still aren’t cycling even up to 12 to 18 months later.

The pill’s power to cover up a wide range of symptoms presents another danger to women. Because we don’t feel outwardly uncomfortable, aren’t struggling with PMS, acne, pain, or other obvious symptoms – we don’t know that something under the surface is going on – conditions like PCOS can go untreated. PCOS is a harbinger of metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes in some women, which themselves are harbingers of other chronic conditions, like heart disease or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, so not getting proper treatment is a big deal.

The good news is that there are ways to use nutrients, herbs, and lifestyle medicine to rebalance your hormones and ease your symptoms when you come off the pill. These are methods I’ve used successfully for over 30 years – first as a midwife and herbalist, and now still as a medical doctor.

Reset Your Hormones Naturally

If you are coming off the pill, there are many effective ways to balance your hormones and ease symptoms post-pill. Here is my post pill reset plan. I recommend either incorporating all of the steps simultaneously, or pacing it by implementing Step 1 for 2 weeks, adding in Steps 2 and 3 for an additional 4 weeks while continuing Step 1, and if needed, at around 6 weeks on the plan, add in Step 4 while continuing the first three Steps. Some women need 6 to 12 months on the plan for a complete hormone reset – it’s highly variable.

Of course, also get a proper exam and consultation with a midwife, nurse practitioner, or other appropriate licensed practitioner to make sure nothing more serious is going on, especially if it’s more than 3 months since you’ve had a regular cycle, or if you have other concerning symptoms.

Most of the herbal supplements below aren’t appropriate while you’re pregnant, but can be taken if you’re TTC (trying to conceive) – just discontinue when you become pregnant.

Step 1: Dietary and Nutritional Strategies

Do this step for the first 2 weeks of the plan – and then continue this step as a healthy way of life indefinitely.

  • Replace missing nutrients. Hormonal birth control pills can deplete the body’s stores of certain nutrients, including vitamins B2, B6, and B12; vitamins C and E; magnesium, selenium, zinc, and folate. Vitamin D levels may also drop after coming off the pill. To replace missing nutrients, emphasize nutrient-dense foods at every meal: dark leafy greens and other phytonutrient-rich vegetables; low-glycemic fruits like berries; pastured and organic animal protein; and beans, nuts, and seeds, and consider taking a high-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement. If tests show nutrient deficiencies, work with your primary provider or nutritionist to supplement enough to boost your levels to an optimal range.
  • Balance your blood sugar. Research has linked oral contraceptive use with imbalanced blood sugar and insulin resistance, two factors that wreak even more havoc on hormonal balance while simultaneously setting the stage for a variety of other quality-of-life-diminishing conditions. Keep your blood sugar steady by eating whole, real, foods. Don’t skip meals and make sure each meal includes some high-quality protein, healthy fat, and nutrient-dense vegetables. Prioritize breakfast and make sure it includes healthy protein and fat. Keep sugar and white flour to a bare minimum and skip the alcohol which itself can create hormone imbalance – especially estrogen. Regular moderate exercise also helps keep blood sugar steady and balanced (but over-exercise can have the opposite effect, triggering inflammation and worsening blood sugar imbalances).
  • Consider ditching dairy while rebalancing your hormones. Dairy tends to be chock full of hormones and environmental toxins that can act as endocrine disruptors, which doesn’t do our internal hormone balance any favors. Many women find that removing it from the diet, even if just for 6 to 12 months, makes a difference. If you do include dairy in your diet, make sure it is organic and full fat to minimize toxin exposure and maximize nutrition and blood sugar balance.

Step 2: Clear Out Excess Estrogen and Reset Hormone Balance

This step is especially important if you were on a pill that contained estrogen, but is also beneficial for re-establishing healthy hormone balance generally.

  • Restore friendly gut bacteria. Healthy gut flora contain bacteria with genes that break down and eliminate estrogen. Together, these estrogen-processing organisms form their own community called the estrobolome. These bacteria play an especially important role in transforming plant compounds called lignans from vegetables and legumes into phytoestrogens, plant hormones that protect the body against the risks of excess estrogen. Keep your estrobolome happy and healthy by eating pre- and probiotic rich foods, taking a high-quality probiotic that contains at least ten billion CFUs from a variety of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium species, eating plenty of fiber, and steering clear of antibiotics as much as possible.
  • Support estrogen metabolism. That’s a fancy way to say “send your liver some love!” The liver is in charge of processing and packaging used hormones so they can be eliminated from the body. But most of us are experiencing a combination of exposure overload from environmental toxins and insufficient intake of the nutrients our bodies need to keep liver detoxification functions in top form.

To help support your liver’s natural ability to detoxify, avoid environmental hormone exposure whenever possible by saying no to plastic food containers, BPA-lined cans, health and body care products that contain synthetic fragrances or other harsh chemicals, toxic household cleaners, dryer sheets and fragranced laundry soap, and non-organic food, for example.

The liver loves certain foods, too. Specifically, the liver thrives when we eat brassica vegetables like kale, cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, watercress, and rutabaga. Organic berries, like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, are another liver favorite.

Herbs and Supplements that Support Hormone Detoxification, and improve the ability of the liver to break down and eliminate excess estrogen, are curcumin, schisandra, DIM, I3C, calcium-d-glucarate, green tea extract, and NAC.

  • Prioritize “Number Two.” Once your liver has your used hormones and other toxins ready for elimination, you’ve got to get them all the way out of the body. That means having a complete bowel movement at least once a day. Focus on getting plenty of fiber in your diet (aim for two cups of vegetables with at least two meals each day or add in two tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseed to your diet), getting plenty of exercise, and staying hydrated. Improving the health of your microbiome will help with regularity, too. Some of my top herbal go-to’s for getting things moving are herbal bitters blends, dandelion root, yellow dock root, and when in need, a combination of senna and ginger or fennel tea.

Step 3: Reset Your Circadian Rhythm

While getting enough high-quality sleep is important, resetting our circadian rhythms isn’t just about getting more sleep. It’s about re-syncing our sleep-wake cycle with the sun and moon.

Unless you work a night shift, the first important step is to sleep when it’s dark and be awake when the sun is in the sky. You don’t have to fall asleep right when the sun sets (which would be 4:30pm in northern latitudes in winter!), but you can help yourself experience more circadian-level darkness by avoiding blue light (computer and phone screens) and television within an hour of bed or, if you must use a screen, adding a blue-light filter like f.lux. Keep the lights in your house low as bedtime approaches and, if your schedule allows, opt for a relatively early bedtime and a relatively early wake time.

Once you’re getting enough high-quality sleep at night, you can use the moon to help balance your hormones and reset your cycle. It’s a practice called (lunaception) and it’s easy to do.

Sleep in a completely darkened room until the full moon (cover or eliminate all sources of light, including electronic alarm clocks and phone screens that flash midnight text messages). For the three days of the full moon, sleep with your curtains open and your face toward the moonlight. Or if that’s not possible, search out a dim white nightlight for your room. After three days of light, go back to sleeping in darkness until the next full moon.

If you don’t have a regular cycle, count the first day of your last period as day #1. Sleep in darkness from day #1 to day #14, then sleep with the white light for three nights, then return to darkness. Repeat during your next cycle.

Step 4: Add in Targeted Herbs and Supplements

  • Herbs and Supplements That Support Hormone Balance. You can support hormone balance with targeted herbal supplementation. Vitex, also called Chaste Berry Extract, regulates ovulation, increases fertility, and improves progesterone. Peony and Licorice Combination supplements have been shown to increase ovulation and improved fertility. Vitamin C improves ovulation and progesterone production.
  • Herbs and Supplements for Specific Hormonal Problems and Symptoms: You can also visit other articles here on my website for strategies for specific hormonal imbalances as part of your plan, for example, endometriosis, PCOS, or menstrual pain. You’ll also find podcasts on these topics if you’d rather listen.

Additional beneficial therapies can include acupuncture, a personally tailored herbal plan, and yoga, particularly asanas targeted to improve pelvic and ovarian flow.

We’ve Come a Long Way Baby….And…

Women fought long and hard for access to contraception so that they – and we – could have more control over our reproductive health. The problem is that the pill, while very liberating in many ways, can also have significant and serious unintended consequences. It creates a very specific set of hormonal imbalances that can have short- and long-run consequences. Pill-imposed hormonal changes also mean it can take some time to restore your own natural hormonal cycles after the pill, or establish a new healthy hormonal equilibrium if yours wasn’t in balance in the first place – which may be why you first started the pill.

Decades of experience have shown me that the steps I’ve shared with you in this article are tried and true for resetting your hormones to healthy. It can take time, even with a full-on natural approach – anywhere from 3 to 12 months – but stick with it to get back into your own “natural flow” so to speak – and make sure to let me know how it goes for you in the comments section below!

What to expect when going off birth control pills

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