Women stop taking hormonal birth control for a variety of reasons. They may be thinking about becoming pregnant or interested in balancing their hormones naturally. Perhaps they don’t like how they feel on hormonal birth control.
What are the benefits of getting off birth control? The benefits of getting off birth control are lessening the side effects associated with hormonal birth control and getting to know your body’s natural signals.
The side effects of quitting birth control may look different from person to person, and different types of contraception may cause different physical changes. We’ll discuss some side effects to watch for when you stop birth control.
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1. Increased Fertility
While this seems obvious, many women aren’t prepared for just how quickly ovulation can return to normal. In a systematic review of women who stopped oral contraceptives, over 80% of respondents became pregnant within the first year off birth control. Some in that group became pregnant within weeks after quitting oral contraceptives.
You can expect regular ovulation to begin within weeks of stopping most hormonal birth control methods. If you’re not ready to become pregnant, it’s important to have a plan in place. That can include a barrier method like condoms and diaphragms.
2. Changes in Menstruation
Any hormonal changes in your body typically come with changes to your menstrual cycle.
What is post birth control syndrome? Post birth control syndrome is a term used to describe symptoms or side effects that may occur after stopping hormonal birth control. That includes changes to fertility, mood, and skin health, but also irregular periods.
A perk for many women on hormonal contraception is more control over menstruation. If you still experienced irregular periods on birth control, however, changes in your menstrual cycle may not be as obvious.
Some women experience withdrawal bleeding when they stop hormonal birth control. If you’ve been on combination pills, withdrawal bleeding mimics menstruation around the time a natural period would occur.
Others may experience breakthrough bleeding or a lack of regular periods for several months after stopping hormonal birth control. This often depends on your menstrual history before starting birth control.
3. Menstrual Cramps
If you experienced bad cramps around your period before starting birth control, those cramps may come back when you stop. It may not happen during your first cycle after stopping birth control, but if cramps do return, they shouldn’t be worse than they were before contraception.
Patients with extreme pain around their period should talk to their primary care doctor or gynecologist. Conditions like endometriosis or uterine fibroids can cause pain and cramping during menstruation. Estrogen dominance may also be at play.
4. Premenstrual Syndrome
Women who suffered from severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms before hormonal contraception will likely see those PMS symptoms return after stopping birth control. These generally include:
- Mood swings
- Food cravings
Managing those symptoms without birth control can feel impossible in the moment, but these lifestyle changes can dramatically improve PMS symptoms:
- Eat a balanced diet high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
- Get regular exercise.
- Practice good sleep hygiene.
- Manage your stress.
If you want to try meditation, the Waking Up app can help you develop a regular practice to manage chronic stress.
For persistent PMS symptoms, talk to your doctor. They can check for conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) that worsen PMS.
5. Breast Tenderness
Breast tenderness is a common PMS symptom, but it can also be a side effect of birth control. Whether your symptoms worsen or improve depends on how you felt before contraception. Some women notice tenderness and changes in the fullness of their breast tissue when they stop birth control.
6. Hair Pattern Changes
Some women may experience thinning hair or an increase in body hair after stopping birth control. For most, hair shedding is a temporary side effect.
If you’re experiencing hirsutism, or excessive growth of body hair, you could be dealing with a hormonal condition like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is associated with an increase in androgens, or male sex hormones.
Excessive body hair, weight gain, and irregular periods because of excess androgens are classic symptoms of PCOS.
Some women start birth control at an early age as a way to manage hormonal acne. Once you stop, you may experience skin issues like an increase in acne.
Talk to your dermatologist before you quit your birth control. They can help you with strategies to keep your skin healthy while your hormones are in flux. Your primary care doctor may also suggest allergen testing to improve overall skin health from food sensitivities.
8. Higher Sex Drive
Any changes to hormone levels can cause changes to your sex drive. Women who experienced a diminished libido or vaginal dryness while on hormonal birth control may regain a higher sex drive when they stop taking oral contraceptives.
Others may find that hormonal birth control was masking underlying sexual dysfunction. If this sounds like you, talk to your doctor. Libido can also be affected by other hormonal changes like menopause, certain medications, or chronic stress.
While some women report improvements in headaches after stopping birth control, others use birth control to manage menstrual migraines. When you stop birth control, these headaches may return.
To treat migraines and other headaches after stopping birth control, it’s important to find out the root of your symptoms. Birth control may have been masking an underlying hormone imbalance.
Menstruation in general can be a migraine trigger for some women. Anti-inflammatories in the days leading up to your period can help. High-quality sleep, regulated blood sugar, and stress management are also beneficial.
10. Mood Swings
Birth control can cause mood swings in users with a history of depression. It can also help manage mood changes in others. Any change to contraceptive use has the potential to affect your mood and your mental health.
Simple nutrition changes can support a healthy mind, especially when your gut health is compromised. It’s important to discuss any significant mood changes with your physician.
11. Changes in Blood Pressure
Hormonal birth control that contains estrogen can cause hypertension in some women. In those cases, it’s best to stop taking estrogen immediately in favor of progesterone or hormone-free contraceptives. Even women who did not experience noticeable increases in blood pressure may see a dip in their numbers at their first doctor’s visit after stropping birth control.
12. Gut Health
A positive benefit of a hormone-free approach is a healthier gut barrier. Studies show that contraceptives with estrogen affect intestinal permeability, potentially causing leaky gut syndrome. That can lead to bloating, nausea, abdominal pain, and chronic fatigue.
If you’re on hormonal birth control that contains estrogen, it could already be affecting your gut. Meta-analyses show a link between the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and oral contraceptive use.
While there is no cure for IBD, you can make changes to heal your gut and balance your microbiome after stopping birth control. A balanced diet high in fiber and anti-inflammatories, stress management, and supplements can all help.
If you’re worried a hormonal imbalance may be at play with your gut issues, our Women’s Health Group Program at PrimeHealth can help bring your body back into balance. Our program starts with lab testing to pinpoint obstacles to hormonal health from the inside out.
From there, group sessions remind you that you’re not alone on your wellness journey. We give you the tools to improve your health and your wellbeing long-term.
Will stopping birth control pills impact your weight?
Stopping birth control pills may impact your weight, but it’s unlikely to be a significant change. Some women experience minor weight loss when they go off hormonal birth control. Others gain weight.
How your body reacts can depend on how it retains water, your existing body type, and your lifestyle. A healthy diet and regular exercise can go a long way in managing any potential weight gain after hormonal changes.
If you notice more dramatic changes in your weight, there may be something else going on. Conditions like hypothyroidism may cause weight gain.
At PrimeHealth, we reverse hypothyroidism by going beyond basic symptoms. We look at everything from gut imbalances to toxicity to stress and come up with a plan from there. You don’t have to live with thyroid dysfunction.
Managing Side Effects
Some of the negative side effects of stopping birth control resolve over time. For lingering concerns, symptom management depends on the condition. Lifestyle changes for overall wellness, for example, can lessen symptoms linked to a bad diet or chronic stress.
In rare cases, some women experience disturbances to their natural cycles for up to 9 months. Most women see their side effects peak in the first few months.
How long does it take hormones to balance after stopping birth control? It can take anywhere from several days to several months for hormones to balance after stopping birth control.
There are some measures you can take to rebalance your hormones, including:
- Eat plenty of protein and fiber
- Avoid sugar and caffeine
- Try probiotics
- Spend time outside to soak up some vitamin D
- Get good sleep
- Manage your stress levels
When managing side effects, it’s important to consider that there may be more to them than your birth control. You know your body best, so it’s important to empower yourself to seek out long-term solutions.
Does the type of birth control matter?
The side effects you experience may differ based on the type of contraception, whether that’s contraceptive pills, an implant, rings, patches, or birth control shots.
Some women report longer spans of post-pill amenorrhea, or the absence of a regular period, after stopping combination birth control pills. Others find that their cycles are much less predictable after a progestin-only method like the minipill.
If you’re on a non-hormonal method like a copper intrauterine device (IUD), you may not notice many side effects at all. Your menstrual history and overall health history also play a part in how your body manages post-birth control side effects.
The Right Way to Stop Hormonal Birth Control
Stopping any form of birth control should always be done under the care of your primary healthcare provider or OB-GYN. That’s the best way to manage side effects and make sure there aren’t any gaps in contraception if you still wish to prevent pregnancy.
What happens if you stop birth control cold turkey? If you stop birth control cold turkey you could become pregnant or experience immediate menstruation changes. If you’re on oral contraceptives, medical advice may be to finish out your pill pack.
At PrimeHealth, we work with women at every point in their journey toward better reproductive health and hormonal balance. If you think you’d like to try non-hormonal birth control options, we can help.
If you’re experiencing side effects from discontinuing any method of birth control, we can help with that, too.
Schedule a free consultation to learn more about individualized plans to take control of your hormonal health. Follow us on Instagram or sign up for our newsletter for regular tips on bringing your hormones back into balance and a more holistic approach to overall wellness.
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