If you've been on hormonal birth control for years, making the decision to stop can be a little scary. If you're wondering
what happens when you stop taking birth control, there are a few things you'll want to know — the good news is, it's really nothing you can't manage.
When it comes to
getting off the pill, many women will experience a wide variety of symptoms both mental and physical, Harlow, sexual health expert and founder of The Center for Menstrual + Sexual Health tells Bustle.
For instance, it's very common to have anovulatory cycles, meaning ovulation doesn't come back straight away. So, if you do decide to stop using hormonal birth control, just know,
your period will be kind of off for some time. It just needs time to adjust.
Dr. Alan Copperman, fertility expert and Medical Director at
Progyny tells Bustle that your normal cycle will return within a month or two. "If your period was regular before you started the pill, the regularity should return," he says. "If it was always irregular, don’t be surprise if the irregularity re-emerges."
Getting off birth control is a pretty big decision to make. So here are some little known things that can happen to your body if you do decide to get off it, according to experts.
You May Notice Changes In Your Skin
People will go on birth control for a number of reasons. If any of those reasons
happen to deal with your skin, just know, getting off it will cause changes. "Hormonal birth control is great at balancing your hormones to prevent unwanted acne," Caitlin Hoff, Health and Safety Investigator at ConsumerSafety.org, tells Bustle. "Without it, however, a monthly breakout could be in your future." So take note of this, and adjust your skincare routine if necessary.
Your Body Might Still Be Protected From Getting Certain Cancers
A study published in the journal,
JAMA Oncology, earlier this year found that long-term use of oral birth control can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer regardless of how healthy you are later on in life or if you have a family history of the disease. According to the study, women who are at risk for certain cancers can not only benefit from long-term birth control use while they're still on it, but the effects can last when they're older.
You Can Get Pregnant Right Away
Despite the fact that your period might be wonky for a while due to the adjustments it needs to go through, Copperman says, "You can indeed get pregnant right after stopping the pill, so be careful." Try
another form of protection that bests suits your lifestyle, and remember, if need be, to use it regularly.
You May Experience Heavier Periods and Even Worse Cramps
If you use the pill to help control cramps and make your period lighter, it’s also not uncommon for cycles to be heavy and painful again. "Don't be surprised when those symptoms return," Hoff says. "Although symptoms aren't guaranteed, the odds are against you." The good news is, if you experienced any adverse
side effects from birth control itself, you can happily leave those behind when you stop.
You'll Experience An Increase In Your Sex Drive
"Perhaps the most surprising effect of coming off the birth control pill, is the simplest and most obvious — the fluctuations of your moods, emotions and desires throughout the month," Harlow says. Birth control affects women differently. Sometimes, women will see a
decrease in their libido. So experts say to expect some changes to occur in your moods. As Harlow says, "Women who go off the pill are often surprised at the nuance and mutability of their inner emotional landscape once they're off the pill and cycling naturally again."
You May Notice Your Vaginal Discharge Is Different
Some women who go off the pill will experience spotting, sometimes accompanied by pain when ovulating which the pill normally prevents, Hoff says. In addition to that, you should expect to see a heavier flow of vaginal discharge than what seems common to you when you're on the pill.
You May Not Be Fertile Right Away
For many women, "post-pill infertility" can be a shocking and surprising side effect of being off it — but it is temporary. "I know of women who come to see me in my clinic were under the (false) understanding that as soon as they stopped taking the pill their fertility would come back instantaneously," Harlow says. "But I usually advise clients who are trying to get pregnant to give themselves at least three to six months for their body to adjust post-pill before they start trying to conceive." There isn't any evidence to prove
the pill will cause infertility. But if you are trying to get pregnant, it is important to remember that conceiving may not be instantaneous, although your fertility will come back.
If you do want to go off the pill, it's suggested to talk to your doctor first. That's especially important if you were originally prescribed the pill to treat an underlying hormonal imbalance like hormonal acne,
polycystic ovarian syndrome, or heavy periods.
After, just try and maintain a healthy lifestyle. "This can really help reduce post-pill symptoms, especially in women who have underlying hormonal imbalances," says Harlow.
Symptoms vary from one individual to the next. But again, if you are looking to get off birth control for whatever reason consulting a doctor should be one of the first things you do, especially if you've been on it forever. It's just important to be aware of which symptoms are considered common and which are not to better keep track of your health overall.