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5 Things to Know When You Quit the Pill

Women opt to stop taking birth control for many reasons.

“Women might be searching for alternative birth control methods. Others stop taking the pill because of side-effects of either an emotional or physical nature,” said Dr. Mara Thur, a Jefferson Health - Abington obstetrician-gynecologist. “But probably the most common reason women stop the pill is because they want to become pregnant.”

If you’re considering going off of your birth control pill, here’s what to expect.

1. Your hormones will fluctuate

This may seem obvious, but the change in hormones is what triggers side-effects.

“Conventional oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) are most commonly a combination of estrogen and progesterone. By taking them, the body is provided with a consistent level of hormones, thereby preventing fluctuations in hormones that usually occur during a normal menstrual cycle,” Dr. Thur said. “The ‘side-effects’ or symptoms experienced by women when they stop oral contraceptives is due to the body returning to its normal ebb and flow of hormones.”

2. Side-effects will mostly be physical

“Most women don't experience much in the way of emotional side-effects when stopping the pill,” Dr. Thur said. However, if a woman experiences mood swings or emotional instability on the pill, that may go away when she stops taking it.

Sometimes physical side effects are the reason they went on the pill in the first place.

“Women often start oral contraception to treat heavy or irregular bleeding, pain with menses or menstrual migraines. Once they stop the pill, these symptoms often resume,” she said.

3. It may take some time for your period to return to normal, but your fertility isn’t affected

Most women’s periods resume to normal within three months of stopping the pill. However, it doesn’t take time for your fertility to “return to normal.”

“The oral contraceptive pill does not decrease a woman’s fertility in any way,”Dr. Thur said. “She should conceive in whatever her normal time frame would be.”

That means that a woman no longer on the pill who isn’t using other reliable forms of contraception, such as condoms, could become pregnant.

4. If you’re going off of the pill to get pregnant, there’s something else you should start taking

“A woman should start on a prenatal or multivitamin prior to stopping the pill if she plans to become pregnant. We recommend three months prior [to conception],” she said.

5. You may want to wait to get pregnant

According to Dr. Thur, women shouldn’t try to get pregnant right after going off of the pill.

“I usually instruct patients to get at least one normal menstrual cycle prior to attempting conception, which amounts to about three months,” she said.

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