Stopping Birth Control Pills & Other Hormonal Methods

Are you thinking about putting the pill packet to one side once and for all? Or maybe it’s time to get your hormonal IUD removed and you’re wondering if you want to get a new one fitted. In this post we’re going to look at stopping birth control pills as well as stopping other hormonal methods. We’ll take a look at how long it takes for the body to go back to how it was before hormonal birth control, and we’ll also cover some non-hormonal methods you might want to consider.

Illustration of hormonal IUDs, implant, pill packets and nuvarings

Things to think about before you stop taking hormonal birth control

Whether you’re on the birth control pill, using the Nuvaring, or using another hormonal method, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor or gynecologist before you stop using a particular birth control method. Contraceptive counseling is a great way to get to know your options and discuss the certain side effects, benefits, or risks when using different types of birth control. In the meantime, let’s look at how to stop taking hormonal birth control. 

How to stop taking birth control pills

When you decide to stop taking birth control pills, we recommend you finish the pills in your packet. If you aren’t looking to get pregnant, make sure you have an alternative birth control method lined up for when you finish taking the pills. 

Depending on your individual needs, there are both benefits and drawbacks to stopping hormonal birth control. It’s useful to be aware of these and also to know that things won’t change overnight, going hormone-free is a gradual, educational journey.

How to stop using the Nuva ring/birth control patch 

When it comes to changing the ring or the patch, simply remove the used one and don’t replace it with another. Again, you’ll need to think about your birth control options after you’ve stopped using these because you will no longer be protected once the ring or patch is removed.

How to stop using the hormonal IUD/implant

You’ll need to make a trip to see a healthcare professional to get your implant or IUD removed. You can get these removed when they are due to be changed, or you can get them taken out earlier if you’re looking to stop hormonal birth control sooner. While it might take a little while for your cycles to get back to normal, remember to use another birth control method in the meantime if you’re still trying to avoid pregnancy.

What happens when you stop taking birth control pills & other hormonal methods?

We’re all different, so how our bodies react to stopping hormonal birth control will vary from person to person. Once you stop, the hormones begin to leave your system and your body starts to go back to how it behaved before the hormonal birth control. Depending on the individual and the method, it can take a while for things to balance back out - but it’s important you have a plan for another method of birth control if you don’t want to get pregnant. 

Side effects of stopping birth control pills & other hormonal methods

While some of us might not notice a change when we come off birth control, others will experience some side effects of stopping birth control pills or other hormonal methods. These may include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Spotting
  • Acne
  • Mood changes
  • Potential weight changes
  • Changes in energy levels 
  • Changes in libido

Birth control withdrawal symptoms

You might also experience what’s called a withdrawal bleed once you stop taking hormonal birth control. This isn’t your period, but instead a different kind of spotting that’s caused by a change in hormones. Withdrawal bleeding tends to be lighter and shorter than a regular period and it’s a healthy sign that your body is getting back to its regular hormone levels. 

Benefits of stopping hormonal birth control

While there are some negative side effects associated with stopping hormonal birth control, there are also quite a few reported upsides to going hormone-free too. Many of the benefits are associated with the way we feel around ovulation (since hormonal birth control stops ovulation from happening). These include a spike in sex drive, increased energy levels, and positive mood changes. 

Of course, everyone is different and your experience of stopping hormonal birth control is unique to you. You can read more about the unique experiences of going hormone-free here. 

How long does it take for hormones to balance after stopping birth control pills or other hormonal birth control methods?

While everyone is different, you may find it can take up to three months after stopping hormonal birth control for your cycle to go back to how it was before. In the meantime, you might experience light bleeding. If you’ve been a long-term user of hormonal birth control, it’s worth knowing that it can mask certain cycle conditions that can lead to irregular cycles, such as polycystic ovary syndrome. If you have questions or concerns about the regularity of your cycle, then it’s always a good idea to speak to a healthcare professional. 

Look out for indications in your body that you might be about to ovulate - these can be tough to spot if you’re not used to monitoring your cycle, but some of these include: a rise in sex drive and increased cervical mucus. You might also experience PMS in the lead up to your first period.

How soon can you get pregnant after stopping the pill?

In theory, you can get pregnant straight after stopping hormonal birth control. However, in most cases, it may take several months before you ovulate for the first time again. For this reason, if you’re thinking about starting a family soon, but are using a hormonal birth control method, it’s worth considering switching to a hormone-free option until you are ready to try to get pregnant. 

We carried out a study looking at women who had previously used hormonal birth control and women who had used Natural Cycles non-hormonal birth control. Our research found that those who used our hormone-free birth control got pregnant faster, on average in three cycles or less. 

How to stop taking birth control pills without getting pregnant

If you don’t want to get pregnant straight away, you should consider other birth control options you can use when you stop taking the birth control pill or other hormonal methods. There are a few non-hormonal birth control options available, including Natural Cycles, the copper IUD and condoms. It’s important to remember that no method of birth control is 100% effective so with any method there will always be a risk of unintended pregnancy. 

Thinking about going hormone-free?

Stopping birth control pills or other hormonal methods can feel like a big step. However, it’s a lifestyle change that women around the world are deciding to take every day. Natural Cycles is the world’s first birth control app and is cleared by the US FDA and CE marked in Europe. It has more than 2 million registered users worldwide, and it can also be used to plan a pregnancy.

Ready to get started?

Jen on the roof terrace at Natural Cycles headquarters.

Written By

Jennifer Gray

A writer with a passion for women’s health, Jennifer Gray has years of experience writing about various reproductive health topics including birth control, planning pregnancy, women’s anatomy, and so much more.

Jack in a suit and tie holding a microphone and giving a presentation.

Scientifically Reviewed

Jack Pearson

With 10 years of experience working in the field of fertility, Jack Pearson is Natural Cycles’ in-house expert. As Medical Affairs Manager, he dedicates his time to conducting groundbreaking research and educating healthcare professionals.