No contraceptive comes without drawbacks. While it takes just days for birth control to leave your system, it can take months for your hormones to stabilize.
Pills, rings, IUDs, condoms, and finally sterilization – I’ve tried them all. While each had their advantages and downsides, I spent most of my young adult life on the birth control pill.
When my husband and I decided to have a child, I finished my final pack of pills and awaited my period. It took two full months for my period to return. It took two additional months before I fell pregnant.
With perfect use, the combined contraceptive pill is 99 percent effective, according to Planned Parenthood. This means fewer than 1 in 100 women will get pregnant in a given year when using the pill as instructed.
Not only is it one of the most effective types of birth control out there, it’s also fast-acting, taking an average of seven days to start working.
While going on the pill requires little preparation, going off the pill isn’t as simple. Birth control hormones are out of your system within 24 to 48 hours after taking your final pill. However, it can take several weeks or even months for your hormone levels to return to normal.
The Body After the Pill
Many women worry that stopping the birth control pill after long-term use will negatively affect their body. It’s important to know that it doesn’t matter if you were on the pill for three weeks or three years, the hormones from the pill will leave your system in a matter of days regardless.
After the artificial hormones are out of your system, the body will start to produce natural hormones to jumpstart your menstrual cycles. This process can occur the very next month or may take several months, depending on your individual body chemistry.
If the body does what it’s supposed to do, you’ll be back to having normal periods within two to three months after stopping the pill. If you experienced irregular periods before starting the pill, you may continue to experience irregular periods after you stop taking birth control.
Some women who had regular periods before starting the pill may suddenly have irregular periods. Everyone’s response to stopping the pill is different.
Some women may experience a condition known as post-pill amenorrhea, also known as lack of menstruation.
The absence of a period could have several causes, such as pregnancy. In many instances, amenorrhea occurs when the body takes longer than normal to produce the hormones necessary for ovulation and menstruation.
“Consult your doctor if you’ve missed at least three menstrual periods in a row, or if you’ve never had a menstrual period and you’re age 15 or older,” says the Mayo Clinic.
What the Experts Say
Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or simply want to know when you can expect your next period, it’s important to understand how birth control will affect your body once you stop taking the pill. Here’s what some experts have to say on the subject:
“Hormonal methods like the Pill, the Patch, and the Ring should be discontinued at the end of a cycle. Most physicians recommend waiting to conceive until you have had two or three normal periods off of birth control, since menstrual cycles can be irregular for a few months after discontinuing hormonal contraceptives.”
The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book, Marjorie Greenfield
“It can take three to six months for cycles to return to normal after discontinuing birth control pills. The cycles can be longer or shorter than usual, and the length of the luteal phase can be abnormal.”
Signs of Fertility: The Personal Science of Natural Birth Control, Margaret Nofziger
“Once you make the decision to start a family, doctors suggest that birth control pills be discontinued at least two months before you hope to conceive. That allows your menstrual cycle a chance to return to normal, and it also allows your physician to date your pregnancy more accurately.”
Ebony, Johnson Publishing Company
“Discontinuing birth control pills may be followed by heavy menses, constant less fertile mucus, and delayed ovulation.”
Fertility, Cycles & Nutrition, Marilyn McCusker Shannon
“The body is wise, but drugs are used to confuse it. Even after you stop taking the pill the estrogen is still in your body and it could take months or years for your estrogen levels to return to normal for your age and weight.”
Acne Messages, Naweko San-Joyz
Other Birth Control Methods
The pill isn’t the only type of hormonal birth control. Other birth control methods can stay in your system for extended periods of time depending on the dose of hormones and where in the body they’re delivered.
It can take even longer to return to regular periods after stopping birth control shots. These injections are generally administered every three months and are more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. However, it can take six to 18 months after you stop getting the shots to get your menstrual period back, according to the Center for Young Women’s Health.
The idea of getting pregnant after stopping birth control isn’t always a simple one. It may take time for your body to adjust to life without artificial hormones which can delay your period and make it difficult to conceive. Before stopping hormonal birth control, talk to your doctor about the side effects that can occur once the hormones leave your system.