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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.

Things to think about before you stop taking birth control pills (and other hormonal methods)

Whether you’re on oral contraceptives like the pill, using the Nuvaring, or another form of birth control containing hormones, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor or gynecologist before you stop using a particular birth control method. Your doctor can offer contraceptive counseling, this is a great way to get to know your options and discuss 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 contraception. 

How to stop taking birth control pills

When you decide to stop birth control pills, we recommend you finish the pills in your packet. If you aren’t looking to fall pregnant, make sure you have an alternative contraceptive 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 vaginal ring/birth control patch 

When it comes to changing the vaginal ring or the patch, simply remove the used one and don’t replace it with another. Again, you’ll need to think about your contraceptive 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 provider to get your implant or IUD (intrautiner device) removed. You can get these removed when they are due to be changed, or your doctor can take it out earlier if you’re looking to stop hormonal contraception sooner. While it might take a little while for your menstrual cycles to get back to normal, remember to use another form of birth control 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 contraception 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 you used this method. Depending on the individual and the form of birth control used, it can take a while for things to balance back out, and before you get your period back - but it’s important you have a plan for another birth control method if you don’t want to get pregnant. 

Side effects of quitting the pill & other hormonal methods

While some of us might not notice a change when we come off contraception, others will experience some side effects of stopping the combined birth control pill or another form of birth control containing hormones. These may include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Spotting
  • Acne
  • Mood swings
  • 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 contraception. 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 contraception, 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 contraception 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 contraceptives?

While everyone is different, you may find it can take a few months after stopping hormonal contraception for your menstrual 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 contraception, it’s worth knowing that it can mask certain cycle conditions that can lead to irregular menstrual cycles, such as polycystic ovary syndrome. If you have questions or health concerns, then it’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor. 

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, if you are sexually active, you can conceive straight after you stop birth control. This can happen before your period even returns. However, in most cases, it may take a few 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 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 contraception 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 the pill without getting pregnant

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

Thinking about going hormone-free?

Stopping the pill or another birth control method 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. This new form of contraception has more than 2 million registered users worldwide, and it can also be used to plan a pregnancy. Take control of your fertility with Natural Cycles today.

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Written By

Jennifer Gray

Jennifer Gray is an award-winning writer with more than five years’ experience covering reproductive topics ranging from birth control to planning pregnancy. She is passionate about providing women with accurate information grounded in science they can use to take charge of their own health - while also dispelling myths that exist within the field of women’s health. She holds a Master of Science from the University of Edinburgh and currently lives in Ireland.

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

Scientifically Reviewed

Jack Pearson

Dr. Jack Pearson is a previously HCPC registered Embryologist with a PhD in reproductive medicine. Prior to joining Natural Cycles leading Medical Affairs, he worked for more than 10 years in a clinical setting working at some of the busiest fertility clinics in the UK. Today he spends most of his time working with experts at the world’s leading institutions to carry out important research with the vision to further the field of female health. He earned his PhD from the University of Sheffield specializing in Sperm Metabolism and currently lives in London.

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