Taking the pill
Cycle Health

The effects of stopping the birth control pill

Oh yes, it’s true. Both starting and stopping the pill can cause side effects. Can we catch a break, please?

Whatever your reasons for stopping, getting pregnant isn’t the only thing that can happen when you come off combined oral contraceptive pill. Whether you’re breaking up with the pill completely, or just taking some time apart, it’s a good idea to know what to expect and why.

How to stop taking the pill

There’s no single method to follow when you come off the pill, so the good news is that when you’re ready to stop, you can simply stop.

The main thing to remember is that if you stop at the end of your pack, you’ll get your withdrawal bleed as usual. If you stop in the middle of the pack, you’ll get the bleed straight away, which can alter the dates of your natural cycle.

Most women get their “natural” period back between 2 - 4 weeks of coming off the pill. If your period hasn’t returned after a month and you’re feeling uncertain, it’s always a good idea to take a pregnancy test. However, a number of genetic and lifestyle factors affect our periods, so for some women it can take up to 3 months for it to return.

Common side effects

When you started taking birth control, you may have noticed several side effects. The pill can help lessen cramps and heavy periods, so be aware that these might return when you stop taking it. The side effects of stopping birth control can be both positive and negative. Here are the most common ones to look out for:

  • Mood swings: Whether it’s starting or stopping the pill, changing hormone levels can wreak havoc on your mood. Keep an eye on your changing moods and if you’re worried about your mental health, don’t be afraid to reach out to a trusted friend or your doctor.
  • Irregular periods: When you come off the pill, it might take several months before you find your rhythm again. It can help to keep some supplies handy in case your period takes you off-guard during this time!
  • Heavier, more painful periods: If you’ve suffered from painful cramps and heavy periods before taking the pill, it’s likely these symptoms will return when you decide to stop.
  • Return of acne: When you take the pill, it can suppress your natural testosterone levels, which can help clear your skin. After you stop this temporary cure, your acne may return.
  • Increased sex drive: Another effect of decreased testosterone levels could be a decrease in your libido. You might notice an increase in desire when you stop taking the pill. Hey, we didn’t say it was all bad!

Pro tip: Tracking these side effects can be a great way to keep an eye on anything out of the ordinary for your cycle!

When can I get pregnant again?

One of the many scare stories surrounding oral contraception is that it has an adverse affect on your fertility. It’s a myth that taking the pill has any long term effect on your fertility.

Let me say it again for the people in the back:

It’s a myth that taking the pill has any long term effect on your fertility.

You can get pregnant straight away, even before your next period arrives. This is because when you stop taking your pill, your body can send the signal that it’s time to ovulate. That’s why it’s so important to move to another form of contraception if you aren’t looking to conceive.

For the lowdown on other types of contraception, we’ve got you covered.

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