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Answers to Many Common Questions About Quitting Birth Control

What Happens When You Go Off the Pill

Going off birth control can be confusing! To help answer many of the inevitable questions on the matter, we turned to a board-certified doctor, and here is her advice on the topic.

There have been lots and lots questions and concerns about what happens when you stop birth control pills, from acne to abdominal cramps, from weight gain to the lack of a period following discontinuation. Since the topic is popular and confusing, I thought I would round up my answers to the myriad questions so the various bits of information are all in one place.

First of all, a quick review. The birth control pill works by preventing ovulation. Once you stop taking the pill, the hormones will be excreted from your body quickly, usually within a couple of days, which is why women who miss a couple days of pills on birth control have a chance of ovulating and getting pregnant. It does not matter how long you were on the pill, your body will still be rid of the hormones within a couple of days. Once the hormones are out of your system, the body will begin to start producing hormones to initiate menstrual cycles. Some women will begin to ovulate in a couple of weeks, whereas it may take several months for other women to begin to ovulate. Generally speaking, your body should be back to "normal menstruation mode" within two to three months after stopping the pill.

It is important to emphasize that if you had problems with ovulation prior to starting the pill, you may continue to have irregular ovulation/periods after stopping the pill. Most women with normal ovulation/periods prior to starting the pill will continue to have normal ovulation/periods after stopping the pill. But, some women who had regular periods prior to starting the pill may have irregular ovulation after stopping the pill. The key point here is that everyone’s experience with ovulation/periods after stopping the pill is different!

One of the specific questions we received was whether or not it is normal to have one’s period come late after stopping the pill. There is a condition called post-pill amenorrhea (or lack of menstruation) that can occur after stopping the birth control pill. According to the Mayo Clinic, the reason for lack of menstruation in these women is that the body is just taking longer to produce the hormones necessary for ovulation and menstruation. If you still haven’t had a period after three months, they recommend taking a pregnancy test, as some women ovulate right after stopping the pill without knowing it and are pregnant without ever getting a period. It would be prudent to also schedule an appointment with either your primary care physician or gynecologist for evaluation.

Another specific question that was sent to us was from a reader concerned with developing acne after stopping birth control pills (she mentioned desiring pregnancy), as she had noticed significant improvement in her skin with use of birth control pills. Many women take certain birth control pills to regulate their acne. Once you stop using birth control, you may notice an increase in acne on your face or on other parts of your body. When your body's hormone levels regulate again, the acne can subside in some cases. It is hard to predict if one’s acne will return after discontinuation of the pill and unfortunately, there is not much that can be done about preventing the return of acne should it happen. My only advice is to use good face-washing hygiene and consider seeing a dermatologist if your acne returns and is bothersome. Women who are not on birth control may not be able to take certain acne medications as they can be harmful to a baby should she get pregnant.

Another reader question was regarding some lower abdominal pain (in the area where she normally got menstrual cramps) about 2 weeks after discontinuing birth control pills. Lower abdominal pain/pelvic pain can represent many, many things. Without knowing any further information that would be helpful, my first impression is that she could be experiencing mittelschmerz. According to Mayo Clinic, mittelschmerz is pain with ovulation that can feel like: a dull ache or cramp, sharp sudden pain, and is typically one sided. Approximately one in five women experiences ovulation discomfort. The exact cause of mittelschmerz is unknown but is thought to either be due to stretching of the surface of the ovary when the egg is released or blood/fluid released by the ruptured egg, which can irritate the lining of your abdomen. My advice to the reader who asked this question is to contact your primary care physician or gynecologist, as more information (including a history and physical exam) is needed to make sure that nothing else could be causing this abdominal/pelvic pain.

Some women worry about weight gain or increased pre-menstrual symptoms after stopping the pill. It has been shown that birth control pills that are higher in estrogen may cause weight gain and water retention. Therefore, your body may adjust after stopping the pill and some weight loss may occur due to a decrease in water retention. However, some women do report weight gain after stopping the pill. It is hard to determine whether a woman will gain, lose, or maintain weight after stopping the pill. The most important steps to take to stay healthy are to continue a healthy, balanced diet, and stay active with exercise and fitness. Many birth control pills are designed especially to help treat exaggerated pre-menstrual syndromes or in certain women, pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder. Thus, some women will notice increased breast tenderness and other pre-menstrual symptoms such as nausea, headaches and fluctuating emotions.

DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

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wantabe wantabe 4 years
I stopped taking the pill about 7 weeks ago after about 10 years. \u00a0Didn't have any signs of a period until 6 weeks after, then had about 24hours of \u00a0some sort of a period. \u00a0Now all I have is terrible bloating, cramping on my left side of the abdomen. More so when I put any pressure on my lower area, like bending down. \u00a0I've had 2 negative pregnancy tests but it could have been early. Do you suppose I am pregnant or just wishing I was, or it could be something else. Confused???
tarajean82 tarajean82 4 years
I just stopped mine 2 weeks ago and I feel SO good. I didn't realize there was thei "meh" kind of fog hanging over me. I have much more energy - I felt pretty happy before, but now I've even happier. Less dryness, greater drive. I am engaged, but we are not ready for a baby. While getting pregnant still worries me, a lot, I do think I'll manage. I hope I get my period in the next few weeks, but I'm really not sure and am worried what's going to happen since I've been on the pill for 11 years. I decided to stop as I've been diagnosed with CIN I (precancerous cervical abnormailty which can disappear on it's on - but is helped with health behaviors). Some information out there states that stopping BC can help with it's regression - it doesn't hurt to try! And I'd been wanting to get off BC for over a year anyway. So far, I'm feeling like quitting is one of the best decisions I've ever made.
erbear28 erbear28 5 years
Hi Everyone, I was on birth control for about 7 years. I have been off of it for about a month and a half now. I have been nothing but happy since I stopped using it and it is amazing how I didn't realize what a major medication it is that I was on! I had my libido back in a couple of days and I have not been dry like I used to be! I have been on weight watchers, so I haven't noticed weight gain like some have mentioned or wondered about on here, but I have actually lost about 6 pounds since I stopped the pill. However, I think it is just because I have been watching it. Although, it may have made it easier for me, i don't know for sure. The only thing that I am wondering now is that a couple of days ago, I started noticing this lower abdominal pain, maybe ovarian pain, and it hurts especially when I need to use the restroom. I have read things about it maybe being an ovarian cyst, but I am not sure. I am going to give it about 2 more days before I call a doctor, but I was thinking it may be some way related to stopping BC. Anyone have this same problem at all? Thanks.
Freckles2 Freckles2 5 years
I have been off the pill for just over 1 month now and have gained around half a stone. I wanted to ask those who have also gained weight after coming off the pill. Did you loose the weight once your hormones got back to normal or did the weight stay and become hard to shift?
cuddlebear1025 cuddlebear1025 5 years
its been almost 3months since i've been off the pill now and im worried that i might be pregnant even though i havent had sex in 9months. can that be true and not have sex for that long and be off the pill?
cuddlebear1025 cuddlebear1025 5 years
i have been off the pill since mid August of this year and i havent gotten my period yet...should i be worried?
imLissy imLissy 5 years
I'm going to have to go off the pill next year when we're trying to have a baby and I'm terrified. My periods were absolutely terrible before I went on the pill, as in, I couldn't function. The pill definitely makes me moody, hungry ALL THE TIME and I've had terrible cystic ance since I've been on it, but at least I'm can be a productive member of society. My husband better get me pregnant quick, lol.
Beauty Beauty 5 years
I've been off the pill for two years or so, and man -- what a difference it makes! I feel more in tune with my body, and haven't experienced any weight gain or loss. What I do miss: easier periods, clear face. The cramps are much worse when I'm not on the pill, and I have had to work harder to fight acne. But it's worth it: I have interest in "relations" again, and I'm not so moody, and generally it is a good choice for me.
Pistil Pistil 5 years
If you're not menstruating, are you still ovulating? Hope this isn't a stupid question. Last time I went off the pill I didn't see my period for a year, so I guess it wouldn't have been possible to figure out where exactly my cycle was at? I wish I could recall any significant changes in my body and mind at that time, but I'm not sure there were any, which is why I continue to take the pill. The main 'pro' being no babies.
genipher85 genipher85 5 years
I've been off the pill since January and before that i was one it for about 4 years. I only got off of it because my boyfriend and I broke up and I didn't feel the need anymore, and it made me feel really nausious sometimes. I liked the pill because I harldy ever felt a cramp. Now that i am off it, my cramps are back to being paralizingly painfull. But, I do like being on my natural cycle.
Soniabonya Soniabonya 5 years
I have a history of ovarian cancer in my family. My Gyno told me that the pill helps with "preventing" certain cancers like ovarian. She told me to only go off the pill if I plan on getting pregnant or once I hit menopause (looooong way from now). My libido is pretty much non existent and I have been playing with the idea of getting off the pill for that reason and because of the high co pay price. $60!?! Yeesh.
1apple 1apple 5 years
I was on the pill for 3 years and it took a good YEAR for my cycles to become regular 31 day cycles again. I too was concerned about weight gain but haven't noticed any since coming off the pill a year ago. The libido is back too, which is wonderful. I don't know if I'll ever go on it again - I'm happy without it. :0)
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 5 years
Oh yea hylandpark I noticed a great increase in my libido as well! I wasn't as "dry" also as when I was on the pill.
hylandpark hylandpark 5 years
Having just discontinued my prescription for the nuvaring after being on hormonal birth control for 10 years, I have to say I'm especially nervous about stories of women gaining weight after stopping birth control. I'm an avid runner, and short (5'1"), and so weight gain is quite distressing. Most of the stories I've heard have to do with women stopping the Pill, but I haven't heard as much on stopping the nuvaring. I realize every woman is affected a little differently, but if anyone here has stopped using the nuvaring, what did you notice, if any? For the record, I stopped using the nuvaring because, and this is strange, when I began using hormonal birth control, my hair gradually became curly, from a naturally straight texture. I didn't think anything of it, until it began to fall out in patches earlier this year. I'm not sure I can blame it on birth control, but since I'm married and can stand the risk of being off bc, I figured I'd see what happened when I stopped it. One less prescription chemical to put in my body, anyway. And the upswing in libido is nice :)
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 5 years
Ok! Well I have some advice here worth noting to help everyone out! I was on the pill for 6 yrs and went off about a year ago. BEST DECSION EVER! It a little tough @ first getting my body back into it's natural routine but now I don't regreat it, and I don't think I will ever go back on it again. I compiled a list of pros and cons that I experianced when going off: PROS my period only lasts MAX 3 days now, before (on the pill) my period would come like 4 days AFTER stopping the cycle - now it comes exactly every 28 days, I feel more energenic, I feel like I have less cravings, my hair is thicker and growing quicker and despite what some people think I did not gain weight - I am finding it easier to loose it actually CONS I do break out about 4 days before my period. For me, though, breaking out is like 4 zits and more oil then usual. I still get cramps but it's only on the first day - after that living is easy ;) Of course the idea of getting pregnant is always in the back of my mind but so far so good and I have a feeling my bf and I do not "match" up reproductivly.
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