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What Will Happen to My Body When I Stop Taking Birth Control Pills?

What You Need to Know Before Quitting the Pill

Between reports of health complications and more women thinking about IUDs, you might be considering a break from birth control pills. If you're concerned about what this change will do to your body, here's some information and advice from a board-certified physician who practices in southern California.

Dear Doctor,

I have been taking birth control pills for 10 years and things have shifted in my personal life and I no longer need to worry about getting pregnant. I want to go off this pill but am worried what will happen to my body and my cycle. Can you tell me what I should expect when I stop taking the pill? Will I gain weight? Will I break out? Will my period be just awful? Also, how long will it take for my hormone levels to return to normal?

— No More Pill For Me

Let me take off my lady doctor cap for a moment and share with all of you that I went through this very same issue last year. After years on the pill, I stopped taking it and will give both some professional and personal advice on this matter with you.

To begin, the birth control pill works by preventing ovulation. Once you stop taking the pill, the hormones are out of your body quickly, usually within a couple of days (this is why women who miss a couple days of pills on birth control have a chance of ovulating and getting pregnant!). Another important point to make is that it does not matter how long you were on the pill, from 10 weeks to 10 months to more than 15 years, your body will still be rid of the hormones within a couple of days!

Related: One Doc's Personal Experience With an IUD

Once the hormones are out of your system, your 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!

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. It would be prudent to also schedule an appointment with either your primary care physician or gynecologist for evaluation. Some women never get a period after they stop taking the pill because they ovulate and conceive right away after the discontinuation. If you do not want to become pregnant, use another form of contraception such as condoms or a diaphragm.

Related: Bookmark This Page For When You Forget to Take Your Birth Control

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. As far as weight fluctuation is concerned, 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. Again, each woman's experience may be different. Case in point, I did gain some weight after I stopped the pill, but it may have been because of other factors due to the stress of trying to conceive, which is why I stopped taking the pill. Many birth control pills are designed especially to help treat exaggerated premenstrual syndromes or, in certain women, premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Thus, some women will notice increased breast tenderness and other premenstrual symptoms such as nausea, headaches, and fluctuating emotions.

I'll finish by telling you more about my experience with stopping birth control. I had regular menstrual cycles before I started the pill, but this was not the case after I stopped the pill. It took approximately two months to get my first period off the pill, and they were very irregular after that (ranging from five weeks to 12 weeks between periods). After seeking consultation with my gynecologist after one year of irregular cycles, I was diagnosed with oligo-ovulation, which basically means I ovulate very infrequently. They could not find any medical cause for this problem after an extensive workup. At first, I felt like something was wrong with me or that I had done something in my lifetime to cause this. But I now realize I am not alone and that there are many women out there going through the same problems I am going through! Hopefully, if any of my readers are going through the same problem as me, they can feel better knowing that there are many women out there (including myself) that are going through it as well!

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

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jae Payne
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lisamaria36 lisamaria36 2 years

He said tey going off the pills for three months and if I start haveing problems hes going to put me back on. I was put on them.cause I always had bad hradaches cramps and vomotitng before I.started the pills. The pills helped with t :) e cramps and the headached but for some reason they sause me to have more periouds than.I was supposed . Tonand I woukd have times where my abdomen was doubled uo.in pain I went to.the er once and they said it was retained fecal matter / inalso have irritablr bowel syndrome

lisamaria36 lisamaria36 2 years

I am trying to.gi off them.for a few months because I vb list too much weight snd had cc teo cycles a month plus I would wake uop in.very severe abdominal , pain. My doc thohjyt I wasnt absorbing my pills so he sent me tona gastrointestinal doctor and I had a endoscopy and colonoscopy and it came back normal. But my weight loss and abdominal pain might be from overian cyst and the pills

lisamaria36 lisamaria36 2 years

I have been.haveing two.cycles a month.on birth controlll for awhile they.tried many.pills but they all do.the same thing.I.always have irregular cycles timeing.in.between.is not.normal.and I.have been.loseing a lot.of weight

Erin15394144 Erin15394144 2 years
I went off the pill last year (after taking it for 10 consecutive years) and my cycles are still irregular, varying between every 35 days and every 78 days. It's really frustrating as my doc doesn't seem to care although I've expressed my concern. I'm 30 and worried that something is wrong. I don't seem to have any symptoms of PCOS... I have mood swings (new since being off the pill) and my back has been breaking out a bit. @nicolexx- I would say that if your body is telling you to take a break, I think that you should. I didn't consult my doctor because I felt like she (again) didn't care anyway..... Although my body is out of wack now I am so glad I went off and probably will never take it again!
Nicolexx Nicolexx 2 years
I've been on the pill for nearly 8 years now without a break. I have already asked the doctor and she said to come off it at 10 years, I don't find her helpful at all and I have told her about my weight gain and said exercise, eat right etc.I've talked with friends and they have said that I should take a break which I agree, I'm booking an appointment to see a different doctor and I am going to come off it but I am afraid off the effects afterwards??? Can anyone help? I have gained a lot of weight on the pill and I am unhappy. My hormones are all over the place I feel cranky a lot of the time and sometimes cry for no reason. I don't want to get pregnant right now but will take other precautions. Should I come off it? Opinions please.
Hannah15305148 Hannah15305148 2 years
I've been on the pill since 2009. I had crazy irregular periods before the pill. At first I was on Yaz for about 7 months and I was getting odd bruises all over my body. I switched to Zovia and my periods have been very regular since and my acne has cleared up greatly. However I have gained quite a bit of weight since being on the pill and I am tired of it. I exercise regularly and try to eat healthy and I just keep gaining weight. My husband and I have decided its time for me to quit the pill. We have relied only on the pill for a contraceptive. Never had to use condoms since we've been married (3 years). I have one week of my pills left and am quitting. Kind of scared what it will do to my periods but hopefully will help me shed the pounds quicker.
Karma15296862 Karma15296862 2 years
Help. I just recently went off the pill. My period ended last week and then I decided to go off the pill. Well I just started having a period again this week when will it stop and get regulated again. Has anyone else had this happen?
Autumn15296297 Autumn15296297 2 years
HELP!!!!! I am 27 years old and had just started birth control abouta week and a half before thanksgiving to help give reassurance to my boyfriend. Well after being on it 10 days I couldn't handle myself because of all the mood swings and was just so snappy so I quit it. Well I was very regular on my period before I started tAking the birth control and now I feel like my emotional level is starting to get backto normal my period had been so crazy. I've taken several pregnancy tests to make sure I'm not regnant and all have come back negative but since thanksgiving I've had a period almost every week or every other week and its very light and no cramps. Someone that is very dear to me had a dream I was pregnant which I am not ready for at the moment which is why I was trying to the precaution to start out with. How long will it take me to get back to normal since Imwas only on the pill for 10 days? Any help would be appreciated.
Nicole15276437 Nicole15276437 2 years
I recently went off the pill and it took 2 months to get my first period and I haven't had one since, it's been 7 weeks since that first period. My husband and I are trying to get pregnant and based on what you said it sounds like I may not be ovulating often. How can I test for ovulation? It sounds like the ovulation tests need to be taken at a certain time?
Carly7 Carly7 2 years
Want to hear a good story? Hears mine :: so I'm 23 and I've been on a few different BC pills since I was 15. I can't remember specifically what ones (one was lavora) I've been on it for so long that I thought feeling bloated and Having no sex drive always was normal.. I literally almost lost my 4year relationship cuz I was so unhappy. so when I got off of it LAST November I had a few days of spotting the first month and after that I had a half ass period every 3-4month and that was it.. That lasted a whole entire year! So after almost a whole year of that in September I got a migraine (my first ever) and it lasted 10days.. The last day when it started going away I started my period. So it was obviously my period causing it.. So I've finally got my normal period back cuz this is the first time I've actually had a period twice in two months.. And man is it awful. Cramps to the max, throwing up every morning, and all that other good stuff.. I couldn't believe what a differnece it made on my body when I got off birth control! It was crazy (if anyone tells you it has no negative effects they're lying) I had seriouse BC withdrawals. I thought I was prego for like 3montha after I quit taking it. I had crazy nightmares and night sweats.. My body was totally out of wack. I will never again go back on birth control. I feel a million times healthier and happier, my sex drive is finally BACK IN FLYING COLORS! Are my periods awful?-yes BUT I would rather deal with how my body is naturally then try to change my hormones And over time miserable. I think BC PILLS are awful for you. Period ;-)
lvalzip lvalzip 2 years
I am just wondering how a woman of menopausal age will know if she has finished going through menopause, if she is taking the pill continuously. I have been for over 10 years and I suspect I am done with menopause, but am afraid to take the chance and go off BC. My hormonal migraines were so bad, but I suspect if I am finished with menopause that won't be an issue. Does anyone know?
Lisa14807228 Lisa14807228 3 years
i(30) was on the pill for hmmmm......11 years give or take a year or two of the depo shot in the middle and have just come off the pill about 4 months ago!I didnt go on the pill for any other reason than sex at the time!Since being off, i have put in iud-with no hormones!The 1 minute of pain to get it in was worth it!More than not!Though my skin has gotten worse, so i have just bumped my beauty routine a bit more, my periods are heavier, albeit the same length <4 days, im alot happier but some positions am restricted in due to the iud but having more sex, because on pill, i wasnt as lubricated, sex drive went down, hair got thinner. Havent noticed any weight gain! And will be delighted in two years when i want babies with the hubby that it just comes out and can get pregnant!!I would have got the iud in years ago!
mandaMurrells mandaMurrells 3 years
I have been suffering with acne and hair loss. I have been on cerazette and notice other people suffering with the same issue but only a few people have the same. Could you tell me if I come off cerazette will my hair loss begin to correct itself?
Amy14337352 Amy14337352 3 years
I cannot afford to go to the Doctor. I do no have insurance on me.
danakscully64 danakscully64 3 years
Amy, you need to talk to your doctor.
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