So you want to talk about… coming off the pill

coming off the pill birth control
Despite more research being done than ever, our knowledge of the birth control pill is still lacking. Therefore, it's no surprise that what happens when we come off the pill is even more unknown. Here, The Lowdown does its best to explain what could happen when you decide to come off the pill.

First things first, no female body is the same and so everyone’s body will make have their own way in getting ‘back to normal’ after coming off the pill.

According to Women’s Health mag, there is no evidence to suggest there is a difference in coming off the mini pill compared to the combined pill. But, what are the potential side effects we might face when we stop taking it?

How long after stopping taking the pill will I get a period?

The first period you experience after coming off the pill is known as the “withdrawal bleed”. This is not the same as your normal period and normally lasts about seven days. Your second bleed will be your normal one. It can take a while for your period to go back to normal – or what is normal for you. The NHS advises waiting three months for your menstrual cycle to normalise again.

Your periods might be more painful and heavier, but this may subside after a few months.

Is my fertility affected?

It’s no secret that research in women’s bodies is lacking in that compared to men’s. Therefore, we do not have complete knowledge about the pill and it’s effects on the female reproductive system. Despite many people thinking the pill does have an affect on fertility, Women’s Health assures us this isn’t the case.

In studies published by the NCBO, women who take the pill shouldn’t see a decrease in their ability to conceive. Although the results suggested a slight delay in getting pregnant, there was not a significant different between women who had been on the pill and those who had not.

How will I feel?

The birth control pill changes our hormones and therefore changes how we feel. So naturally, when we come off the pill, it’s going to change how we feel (for most of us). Some females start the pill to help with their moods. The pill can help with depression, anxiety or PMS (pre-menstrual symptoms) and PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder) and so coming off it may cause some of those feelings to come back. On the other hand, some females have also reported feeling worse on the pill and by stopping it, they felt a lot better.

In some circumstances, females say that it wasn’t that they felt bad when taking the pill, but that once they stopped taking it, it’s almost like they woke up or that fog was lifted. Research shows the pill can impact how we think, feel, date, vote and so it’s no surprise that there will be some change in you, you just might not notice it.

Coming off the pill to get pregnant?

Remember, as soon as you come off the pill you are no longer protected, so if getting pregnant isn’t your goal, then you might want to consider using other forms of contraception.

However, if you are hoping to get pregnant then you will be unprotected within hours of stopping taking the pill. Some pills have a three-hour window and others have 12, so make sure you know which one yours is if you miss it! According to the NHS it is best to wait until after you’ve had your first natural period before trying for a baby. This gives you time to make sure you’re in the best physical health for carrying a baby.

Other contraceptive options

If you’re looking to come off the pill and go onto a different form of contraceptive, then we have got you covered. There are many other different types to try, both hormonal and non-hormonal.

If you fancy sticking with a hormonal contraceptive then you could try another pill. Trying a different brand might suit your body better but if you’re set on coming of the pill for good then your options include; the contraceptive patch , the vaginal ring, the hormonal coil, the injection or the implant.

Instead, if you want to steer clear of the hormonal choices, then there are non-hormonal options available too. You could try the condoms, the female condom, naturally tracking your cycle or the copper coil.

The Lowdown’s experience

No female will have the same experience and we at The Lowdown try to be as informative as possible for you. So, here are some experiences from The Lowdown team itself when they came off the pill:

“I had been on Microgynon since the age of 15, decided to come off it after 13 years as I thought it might be causing some anxiety. I went on the copper coil to avoid any hormonal contraception methods and came to realise that I actually have hypothalamic amenorrhea which means my body isn’t producing a period. The bleeds I was having on the pill were not real periods and if I had not come off it I’d still think everything was fine and that my body was functioning properly. I’m very fortunate to have decided to try something new as I can address this issue – otherwise it would still be going on and I’d have no clue!”

“I first started the pill at 17 which was fine. Then, as what can happen, the GP decided to put me on something else but pretty much right away I started to have headaches on the side of my face. After visiting the GP, I was advised immediately to come off it as that was a symptom of a blood clots. Almost immediately, I felt back to normal and the headaches had subsided. I am now on Cerelle and it is great!”

“Since coming off the pill, almost seven years later, I now struggle with adult acne and wish I had been able to deal with it when I was younger. I think the pill can ask as a mask for inbuilt issues that will only come out as soon as you’re off it. I still get really awful cramps on occasion but I know how to deal with them. I don’t regret going on the pill – I think it’s almost unavoidable for most women – but I do wish there had been the knowledge and awareness there is now.”

When making the decision to come off contraception, it is always best to consult your doctor. Perhaps let them know that is what you are planning on doing and make sure it is done in a safe way.

This guide was brought to you by The Lowdown. We are the world’s first contraception review platform, providing real-life experiences from thousands of reviews collected from our community of men and women.

Why not leave us a review of your contraceptive experience? Whether you’ve got good things to say about the Mirena coil or had trouble with implant removal, we want to hear about it! Tell us about your experience and help people around the world find the right method for them.