Side Effects of Stopping Birth Control

Submitted by Pregnancy and Baby Care team on October 10, 2012

So, you have decided to stop taking your birth control pills, probably because you are planning to get pregnant soon, or maybe you've found an alternate form of birth control. However, did you know that there are side effects associated with quitting any medication, including birth control pills? It is important for you to educate yourself about some of the changes that your body may go through, before you decide to stop pills.


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Birth control pills contain hormones, which bring about changes in your body. These hormones leave your system within a short time, after you quit taking birth control pills. However, it could take several months before your body produces hormones of its own.

In the meantime, some of the changes that your body may be subject to, include -

  • Pregnancy: Many women have gotten pregnant soon after they stop taking their birth control pills. Therefore, if you are sexually active and want to prevent pregnancy, you need to use another form of birth control. It is best for you to plan your pregnancy around 3 to 6 months after you stop taking birth control pills.
  • Acne: Birth control pills help to prevent acne problems in many women, because of the hormonal changes they trigger off. If you have noticed a reduction of acne after taking the pills, there is a slight possibility that the acne may return when you quit the pills. Quitting birth control pills could cause your skin to become a bit oilier than before.
  • Bleeding: When you decide to quit taking birth control pills, you can stop at any point in your menstrual cycle. However, of you stop the pills halfway through the pack you may notice some bleeding before your period begin. In all probability, you will get your first period around 4 to 6 weeks after you take your last pill. Since your body will take a while to get used to the normal hormone levels, the heaviness and duration of your period may vary.
  • No period: Birth control pills have an impact on the hormones that control ovulation and your menstrual cycle. Therefore, many women do not get their period for a while, after they stop taking their birth control pills. This phenomenon is known as post-pill amenorrhea, which occurs because of the prevention of ovulation. In most instances women get their period around 4 to 6 weeks after they stop taking the pill. However, some women could experience post-pill amenorrhea for up to 3 months. In case you do not get your first period within 4 to 5 months of stopping birth control pills, you need to visit your doctor.
  • Weight changes: Certain types of birth control pills contain a high level of estrogen, due to which, your body may retain water. This is probably why many women experience weight gain after they start taking birth control pills. Once you stop taking the pills, the water retention should decrease, causing you to lose some weight.
  • Mood swings: Hormones control many body functions and emotions, especially your moods. The changes in your hormonal levels after you stop taking birth control pills could cause you to go through mood swings. You may end up feeling sad, depressed, angry or anxious for no reason at all. Fortunately, once your body gets adjusted to the hormonal changes, these mood swings should vanish.
  • Reduced interest in sex: You are probably aware of the fact that your sex drive is influenced by your hormones. At times, because of the hormonal changes in your body, you may lose interest in sex for a while after you stop taking birth control pills. Your sex drive should return to normal within a couple of week though.
  • Physical discomfort: There are certain other problems that you may experience once you cease taking birth control pills. These generally include nausea, headaches abdominal cramps and tenderness in the breasts.

Do bear in mind that the side effects of stopping birth control vary from one woman to the other. The side effects that you experience depend upon your overall health as well as the type of birth control pill you have been taking. Some women may not experience any side effects at all, whereas in others, they could be quite severe. Fortunately, most of the side effects of stopping birth control are temporary (except pregnancy of course) and should cease once your body starts producing hormones normally.

If you are concerned about any of the side effects of stopping birth control pills, speak with your gynecologist or your primary healthcare provider. 

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