coming off the pill

So, you want to get pregnant and need to know all about coming off the pill? Well, first of all, congratulations on making the decision to try for a baby!

Of course, there is no way to know for sure when you will get pregnant after stopping the pill or a similar contraception method, just as there is no way for women who haven’t been on birth control to know. There are numerous biological and lifestyle factors (for both you and your partner) that determine this.

However, there are some basic facts about coming off the pill, stopping injections, or removing a birth control implant that will be useful to you as you take this big step. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how to discontinue your birth control and your next steps for becoming pregnant.


Hormonal contraception – many forms of the same idea

The birth control pill is one of the most effective forms of contraception, as well as one of the most common. The combined birth control pill contains a mix of the hormones progesterone and oestrogen, which both prevents your body from releasing an egg, and thickens the cervical mucus, which makes it very difficult for sperm to ever reach an egg. There are also progesterone-only pills, which only do the latter, and that are widely used as a method of birth control while breastfeeding

Hormonal birth control is available to women in many different forms besides the pill, including the birth control patch, injections, implants and the IUD. They all work in the same way, though the different methods can release the hormones following different timing patterns. For example, while you would have to take the pill every day in order to have the necessary amount of the hormones, an IUD will automatically release the correct amount slowly over time.


Coming off the pill or how to discontinue your hormonal birth control 

Because each kind of hormonal birth control works a little differently, each needs to be stopped in a unique way as well. Most are extremely easy to discontinue; just think of how you started and reverse it! Here are the ways to stop the most common kinds:

  • Combined pill – Coming off the pill is as easy as going on it. Simply wait until the end of the package and stop taking them.
  • Progesterone only pill – This one is even easier. You don’t even have to wait until the end of the package, just stop whenever you feel like it.
  • Injections – Just like coming off the pill, all you have to do is stop getting your injections. It will take a bit longer for the hormones to leave your system, but that is all you have to do.
  • Implant – A doctor or nurse had to insert the implant under your skin, and you will need to have a small procedure to remove it. It should just require a small incision at the insertion site, made more comfortable with some local anaesthetic.
  • IUD – Again, just as the doctor had to insert the device into your cervix, he will now have to remove it. It is a simple outpatient procedure, just like the insertion.


Can you get pregnant on the implant or on the pill?

Although hormonal birth control options are extremely effective when taken properly (the pill, for example, is over 99% effective), it is still possible to get pregnant on the pill. The same holds true for other hormonal options like the implant or the IUD.

If you do become pregnant while on the pill or another hormonal birth control, make an appointment with your doctor to find out what you should do. Normally, they will have you discontinue the use of the pill and injections, and they will remove the IUD or implant.


What happens to your body once you’ve stopped? 

After coming off the pill or other hormonal contraceptive, it may take a while for your body to get back into a regular cycle. Typically, you will have what is known as ‘withdrawal bleeding,’ which looks like a light period, but isn’t technically because you haven’t ovulated. It is very normal for your body to need a few weeks to a few months to be regular again.


How long will it take to get pregnant?

Just because it could take some time to become regular again doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to get pregnant just after coming off the pill. In fact, with many of the hormonal contraceptive options, your fertility can return right away or in a few days. This is true for the pill, implant, and IUD. However, doctors suggest waiting until after your first regular period before trying to get pregnant, but only because it is easier to calculate the due date, not because it is unsafe for you or a baby.

The exception to the immediate fertility is the injections. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year for you to become fertile again. It is completely possible to get pregnant before that time, but don’t be worried if you’re having no luck within a year after stopping.


I stopped the pill, now what?

Congratulations, now you get to enjoy the fun part: trying to make a baby! Remember that there is no guarantee of becoming pregnant, even if you’re trying to by having sex without birth control. If you’re wondering how long it can take you to get pregnant, you may be interested in reading about ovulation, or other tips for getting pregnant. Keep it mind that it can take up to a year and still be considered normal! In fact, doctors start to test couple for fertility issues after they’ve been trying for a year without succeeding.


Clearly, coming off the pill or discontinuing your birth control is only the beginning of your adventure toward pregnancy! Though hormonal contraceptives have no known long-term impact on fertility, and fertility generally returns quickly, you may not get pregnant right away. But relax and enjoy it—trying is part of the fun!


Need help? Ask other mummies in CaptainMums' forum!


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