Ever since it was approved by the FDA in 1960, hormonal birth control has provided women with an essential component of an autonomous lifestyle. The ability to control birth opens the door to life choices concerning both family and career.
Hormonal birth control also provides many physical benefits. In addition to giving women reproductive control, it also helps prevent or reduce:
- Heavy and painful menstrual cycles
- Osteoporosis (bone thinning and weakening)
- Mammary and ovarian cysts
- Ovarian cancer
- Infections in ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus
- Iron deficiency (anemia)
- And, of course, premenstrual syndrome
Birth control is convenient, safe, and, for most women, relatively free of negative side effects.
But there comes a time in the lives of many women when all those benefits are outweighed by the countervailing benefits of creating a family. At that point, questions naturally arise, such as whether birth control helps or hinders fertility, and what happens when you decide to stop taking birth control. Here’s what you need to know about stopping birth control, whether to get pregnant or for other reasons.
Even long-term use of birth control does not reduce your chances of getting pregnant after you quit
In fact, it enhances those chances, because while you’re on it, hormonal birth control reduces the strain on your ovaries.
“In many ways, birth control can protect your fertility”, says Lauren Streicher, an OB/GYN professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “For example, the reason the birth control pill works is because it’s a combination of estrogen and progesterone. It gives your ovaries a rest and does the work for them. When you’re on it, you have the right amounts of progesterone and estrogen, and you don’t get abnormal buildup in the lining of the uterus. It also helps you avoid issues like polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis and other conditions that can impact fertility.”
Birth control does not cause infertility
But birth control might mask underlying fertility issues while you’re on it, such as hormonal imbalances and irregular menstrual cycles. “It’s these underlying factors that are more the cause of fertility problems when women come off birth control than the birth control itself.” Says Alyssa Dweck, an OB/GYN in New York who has written The Complete A-To-Z for Your V.
What happens when you’re going off birth control?
- You could get pregnant (“duh”). And it might happen almost immediately. One study shows more than half of the women going off birth control to get pregnant were pregnant within six months.
- Your periods might get worse. The rule of thumb here is “what used to be will probably be again”. In other words, whatever your periods were like before you got on the pill is probably how they will be after you quit the pill.
- It might take a couple of months for you to revert back to your former, pre-pill, cycle.
- And you might not go through that reversion. If you started the pill as a teenager and you’re 30 now, your cycles are likely to be whatever is normal for your current age.
- If you had PMS before starting your pill regimen, you’re likely to have it again.
- If you used a progestin only type of birth control, you may gain a few pounds when you quit. But stopping the pill is not really a viable weight loss program. You’ll be better off with improving your diet and increasing your exercise regimen.
- If you had acne and unwanted hair pre-pill, and those conditions were caused by a hormonal imbalance, that same hormonal imbalance is likely to return. So get ready to see your dermatologist and/ or your aesthetician.
- Your libido might be elevated. A small percentage of women report that the pill lessens their interest in sex. One study showed about 15% of women who stop the pill regained more amorous feelings.
- Some women suffer headaches from the pill. For these women, quitting the pill makes the headaches go away.
One of the most impactful benefits of the pill is how it lowers the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers, as well as some types of cysts
If you were on the pill for a long enough time, that benefit will continue, even after you’re off the pill.
So there’s very little downside to stopping birth control, other than going back to the way you were. Your ability to get pregnant will be enhanced rather than diminished. And after your family is created you can readily regain all those benefits. At least until menopause looms. 😊 Thaïs
About Dr. Thais Aliabadi
As one of the nation’s leading OB-GYNs, Dr. Thaïs Aliabadi offers the very best in gynecological and obstetric care. Together with her warm professional team, Dr. Aliabadi supports women through all phases of life. She fosters a special one-on-one relationship between patient and doctor. We invite you to establish care with Dr. Aliabadi. Please click here to make an appointment or call us at (844) 863-6700.
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