Coming Off the Pill
Dr. Veena Kabbinada

Dr. Veena Kabbinada

Jun 19Sexual health

Coming Off the Pill

How do birth control pills work and how do they affect your body?

Birth control pills contain estrogen and progesterone in the amounts that your body has naturally during a healthy menstrual cycle. Since these hormones are now provided externally, your body stops the process of ovulation.

Here’s how they help in preventing pregnancy -

1. Birth control pills cause a change in the cervical mucus, making it difficult for the sperm to travel through the cervix and reach the egg.

2. They can also prevent pregnancy by changing the lining of the uterus so it becomes highly unlikely that the fertilised egg will be implanted.

3. They stop ovulation by supplying estrogen and progesterone to your body.

What are the side-effects of birth control pills? 

While there are some side effects of birth control pills - the majority of these are not serious or permanent. Some of them may include :

  • Nausea
  • Sore or swollen breasts
  • Lighter periods
  • Mood changes
  • Mild headache

Why do women choose to come off the pill?

If the vulva owner is planning to get pregnant, they will then choose to come off the pill. If you have long-term family planning goals, it is not advised to take the pill for more than 5-10 years in order to prevent side effects.

In other cases, where pregnancy is not a reason, they may choose to come off the pill when they start to notice stronger side effects like irregular periods and severe changes in mood.

coming off pill

What are some side effects of coming off the pill?

Since the pills are hormone-based, the levels of naturally occurring hormones in the body get disturbed. Hence, it will take a while for the body to revert to its original levels once you stop using the pills, which may cause temporary side effects. On the other hand, these side effects are temporary and will gradually wean off.

Some side effects you may experience when coming off the pill are -

  • Bloating of abdomen
  • Abdominal cramps during ovulation
  • PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms may return which can cause mood swings, food cravings and weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Acne
  • Breast tenderness.
  • Mild headaches
  • Some women may have unwanted hair growth
  • Changes in your sex drive
  • Change in Vitamin D levels that may cause low immunity, tiredness, fatigue and depression

It usually takes 3-7 days for the pill’s hormones to leave the body. In some cases, it may take up to 3 months for the natural hormone levels to balance out.

How to better manage the birth control pill’s side effects?

  • If you have breast tenderness, apply a cold compress regularly. This can help relieve any soreness in the area.
  • For headaches and cramps, your doctor will most likely prescribe a mild pain-killer
  • For weight management, stick to a healthy diet and regular exercise
  • If you experience severe mood alterations after coming off your pill, speak to a therapist or a counsellor who can help you manage your moods better.

How will it affect my periods?

When you stop taking hormonal birth control, it isn’t uncommon for you to notice changes in your menstrual cycle. Post-birth control syndrome is a set of symptoms that arise 4-6 months after coming off the pill. The most common symptom involves the menstrual cycle - these irregularities can be caused by either your natural hormone levels being imbalanced before birth control or your body taking its time to return to the normal hormone production needed for your menstruation.

Usually, your periods will return 2-4 weeks after coming off the pill. For some women, the periods may take 3 months to become regular and fall into a normal menstrual cycle. In other cases, you may even skip your period for as long as 3 months , after which your periods will return to normal.

If your periods do not return within 6 months, you may have post-pill amenorrhea which is the abnormal absence of menstruation. Please consult your gynaecologist in this case.

How soon after coming off the pill can I get pregnant?

This depends on why you were taking birth control pills. Sometimes they are prescribed to regularise periods such as in the case of PCOS persons. If you have been taking pills for a non-contraceptive reason, then you need to consult your gynaecologist about your chances of getting pregnant.

A study found that 72-94% of women get pregnant within the year and more than half were pregnant by 6 months. In most cases, you can get pregnant immediately after stopping the pills. In case you are not planning for a pregnancy right away, do make sure to use other contraceptive methods. In other cases, ovulation may take up to 3 months to return, only after which you will be able to get pregnant.

The intake of birth control pills causes a deficiency of folic acid in the body which is a very important component in the development of the baby as it prevents some major birth defects. Hence, it is advised to plan for a pregnancy 3 months after coming off the pill. During those 3 months, your ob-gyn will prescribe folic acid supplements for you. Taking the pills does not affect your fertility nor does your fertility get affected by how long you have been taking the pills. If you have been struggling to get pregnant for a year after discontinuing the pills, please consult a doctor right away.

Also Read: 8 Self-care Tips before Pregnancy  

In conclusion

The effects of coming off the pill are temporary and your body will soon return to normal. You can plan for pregnancy almost immediately after coming off the pill. If you wish to avoid the side effects of the birth control pills, it is advised to not use them after 10 years. Overall, coming off the pill is an easy process that you can smoothly transition to by taking some small steps to help the process.

Disclaimer: This information is educational and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any dietary changes or adding supplements.

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