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Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Amanda Olson, DPT, PRPC
President & Chief Clinical Officer

Getting Off Birth Control? Here's How to Do It

For most women, getting off birth control is a straightforward process. For others, it can cause side effects like irregular cycles, acne, and cramping. Below, we’ve created a guide to getting off birth control safely, as well as the possible side effects and what you can do to manage them.

Whether it’s the inconvenience, weight gain, the cost, or the desire to have a baby, women stop taking birth control for many reasons. And while it is usually an uncomplicated transition, understanding the possible side effects, how long they last, and how soon you could become pregnant can make the change a lot easier.   

How to Quit Birth Control

Regardless of what type of contraceptive you’re on, it’s generally a good idea to speak with your doctor before quitting.  

When to quit, the side affects you can expect, and what options are available afterward will depend on your reasons for taking birth control in the first place, as well as your reasons for quitting. 

Stopping The Pill & Mini Pill

The pill and mini pill are probably the most popular female contraceptives. And although you can stop taking them at any time, giving up in the middle of a cycle will more than likely trigger some bleeding. This is not menstruation, but rather an interim reaction from a confused uterus that will eventually regulate periods again within 2-3 months. 

To avoid irregular bleeding, it is advised to stop the pill or minipill at the end of your current pill pack. 

If trying to get pregnant, stopping at the end of a pill pack also makes it easier to understand when you will next ovulate. If you don’t wish to conceive, ensure you use another type of contraception.    

Stopping Birth Control Shot & Patches

Seeing as women get the birth control shot every three months, stopping simply means not getting the shot. However, the effects of the birth control shot have been known to last for up to nine months. It is recommended to speak with your doctor about the timing if you intend on becoming pregnant. 

Removing birth control patches will immediately cease the release of estrogen and progesterone into the body. Although remnants of the extra hormones may remain in your body for a few days, it is best to begin using another birth control method straight away if you do not wish to become pregnant. 

Removing Birth Control Implants & IUDs

Birth control implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs) are easily removed by a doctor or a nurse. The removal may cause a little vaginal bleeding and fertility is usually back to normal within a few days. 

However, if you experience a fever, chills, or excessive bleeding after having an IUD removal, consult with your health practitioner immediately. 

What Are the Side Effects of Getting Off Birth Control?

When women stop taking birth control the external sources of estrogen and progesterone, or in some cases just progesterone, are no longer released into the body. This means the levels of hormones in the body will change and need some time to re-balance.  

Side effects of stopping birth control can include: 

  • Changes to the menstrual cycle
  • Cramps during ovulation
  • PMS Symptoms
  • Weight Fluctuations
  • Acne
  • Headaches
  • Mood Changes
  • Tender Breasts 
  • Changes in libido 

Women’s health experts believe that the side effects of stopping hormonal birth control vary depending on the individual, as well as the type of birth control. 

The good news is, most side effects of coming off birth control are temporary and will disappear within a short time.

Fertility After Stopping Birth Control 

While some sources have reported that it could be more difficult to conceive after stopping birth control, women’s health experts believe there are no long-term effects on fertility. In theory, women should be able to conceive right away, however, it can sometimes take one to three months for the menstrual cycle to regulate. 

If you don’t have a period for more than three months after stopping birth control, try not to worry. Sometimes it can take a little longer for the body to adapt. However, it is always best to make an appointment with your health care practitioner to check that everything is as it should be. 

PMS After Stopping Birth Control

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a common female condition that causes a range of symptoms from physical pain to emotional fluctuations and it can sometimes flare after stopping birth control. 

Chasteberry, also known as Vitex, is an herbal remedy that is widely recommended by women’s health experts to help re-balance hormone levels and manage PMS symptoms. 

Taken as a supplement, like the Chasteberry/Vitex Supplement from Intimate Rose, it helps to relieve mood swings and headaches, lowers stress levels, reduces sleep disruptions, and lessens feelings of fatigue.  

Weight Gain & Acne After Stopping Birth Control 

A healthy diet and regular exercise will counterbalance weight gain after stopping hormonal birth control. Diet and exercise can also help with acne flare-ups. 

If you are concerned about acne returning when you stop birth control, speak to your doctor or a dermatologist about putting a skincare plan in place. 

Additionally, in a 2015 study, it was found that when taken daily, a chasteberry supplement, such as theChasteberry/Vitex Supplement from Intimate Rose, showed positive impacts on reducing pre-menstrual acne. 

Headaches & Cramping After Stopping Birth Control

Headaches and cramping are two common side effects of getting off birth control. Luckily, they shouldn’t last past a few menstrual cycles. And they can be treated with simple over-the-counter pain relief.   

Chasteberry is also known to reduce headaches associated with symptoms of PMS. 

Tender Breasts After Stopping Birth Control 

Breast tenderness comes and goes with the menstrual cycle, and it usually flares during ovulation. While this is normally masked by hormonal birth control, it can become obvious again after stopping.  

As well as taking a daily supplement of chasteberry to relieve tender breasts, a cold compress also helps.  

According to a placebo-controlled study in 1999, for example, 50% of the participants who took chasteberry supplements for three menstrual cycles reported significantly less breast discomfort. 

Conclusion  

It is advisable to consult with a doctor before getting off birth control to understand what to expect. 

For most women, fertility returns almost immediately. So it’s important to use another form of contraception if you do not intend to become pregnant. 

Some women will experience side effects like weight changes, acne, or irregular periods after stopping hormonal birth control. These side effects are perfectly normal due to the change in hormone levels and are usually temporary. 

If side effects do not subside after six months, or if any fever, chills, or excessive vaginal bleeding occur after discontinuing hormonal birth control, it is best to pay another visit to your doctor. 

References 

Planned Parenthood – Birth Control - https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control 

National Center For Biotechnology - Oral Contraceptive Pills - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430882/

National Center For Biotechnology -Return of fertility after discontinuation of contraception: A systematic review and meta-analysis - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6055351/

Planned Parenthood – How does IUD removal work? - https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/iud/how-does-iud-removal-work

National Center For Biotechnology - Use of Vitex agnus-castus in migrainous women with premenstrual syndrome: an open-label clinical observation - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22791378/

National Center For Biotechnology - Medicinal Plants for the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris: A Review of Recent Evidence - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4740760/

National Center For Biotechnology - Treatment of cyclical mastalgia with a solution containing Vitex agnus extract: results of a placebo-controlled double-blind study. The Breast 1999;8:175-81. - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14731436/

Medical News Today – Late Periods after stopping birth control - https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/late-period-after-stopping-birth-control