Considering Stopping Birth Control? Expect These Symptoms

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If you're thinking about stopping hormonal birth control, you should know that you can quit safely at any time. However, you should also expect a return of some symptoms, such as acne, cramping, and menstrual bleeding. Read on to learn about the process and potential side effects of stopping birth control.

Birth control

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Why Would I Stop Taking Hormonal Birth Control?

There are many reasons why a person might discontinue the use of hormonal birth control, including:

  • If you’re experiencing side effects: Everyone responds to hormones in birth control differently. However, there are commonly reported side effects, including breast tenderness, weight fluctuations, headaches, breast soreness, acne, and nausea. It can also cause changes in the menstrual cycle, mood, and sexual desire (libido). Some side effects may be more tolerable than others. For those who can't tolerate the side effects of a given method, they may decide to stop using it.
  • If you’re looking to switch birth control methods: Some people stop one method in favor of another (possibly one without hormonal effects).
  • If you’re trying to conceive: To increase the likelihood of getting pregnant, you may choose to discontinue all methods of birth control.

Stopping Hormonal Birth Control Safely

With the exception of the birth control shot (Depo-Provera), all other methods of hormonal birth control can be discontinued at any time. Stopping a given method may or may not require the help and guidance of a healthcare provider.

  • Patch, pill, or ring: Because these methods are managed by you (taking a pill each day, applying the patch to your body, or inserting the ring), you can control the timing of when you stop using these methods, though you should consider discussing this decision with your healthcare provider.
  • Implant or intrauterine device (IUD): These long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods are inserted by a healthcare provider and can be safely removed by an experienced provider.
  • Shots: Contraceptive shots are administered by a healthcare provider every three months. If you no longer wish to use this method, you may simply not schedule the next injection. For those who use the self-injection method, do not use the next self-injection dose. You may want to make your healthcare provider aware that you are discontinuing this method so that you can discuss your contraception goals and receive relevant guidance.

What Side Effects to Expect

Generally speaking, there may be some short-lived side effects of stopping the use of hormonal birth control as your body readjusts. However, the more notable change will likely be that you will experience your menstrual cycle and related symptoms in the way you did before taking hormonal birth control.

For example, if you had painful menstrual cramping before you took hormonal contraception, that same amount of pain may return. Similarly, if you had more acne, menstrual migraines, heavier menstrual bleeding, or irregular cycles before taking birth control, you may experience these again when you stop taking it.

You may also experience a delay in the arrival of your next period depending on when you stop during your cycle.

Another concern some people have is how quickly they may be able to become pregnant after stopping hormonal birth control. With most methods, the ability to conceive returns very quickly after discontinuing. Most people will have their periods and the ability to conceive return 90 days after they stop taking the pill. For both the copper and hormonal IUD, this usually occurs within 30 days.

The contraceptive shots are the exception. While it will vary from person to person, people who have used this method may have a delay in their ability to get pregnant lasting up to 10 months after their last injection.

Ways to Manage Symptoms

If you begin to experience some of the symptoms of your menstrual cycle that were previously managed by hormonal birth control, you may need to seek out alternative ways to manage any discomfort or pain.

For symptoms, you can consider the following options:

  • Menstrual cramping: Using over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medicine, such as Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen), and the use of a heating pad can help manage menstrual cramping.
  • Menstrual migraines: You can treat migraines with ibuprofen or migraine medications.
  • Acne: If you experience acne again after discontinuing birth control, you may investigate OTC and prescription treatment options.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): Being regularly physically active, managing stress levels, getting necessary nutrients from the food you eat, and getting enough rest can help manage PMS symptoms.

Birth Control for Nonhormonal Use

If you used hormonal birth control for its noncontraceptive benefits (for example, to reduce menstrual cramps and acne, lighten bleeding, or to regulate your menstrual cycle), you may wish to speak with your healthcare provider about other ways to address these concerns, especially if you've been unsuccessful at managing them in the past.

When to Speak with Your Healthcare Provider

If you're concerned about stopping the use of hormonal contraception, it's wise to talk with your healthcare provider. They can advise you based on your personal health history and what your experience may be like without the hormones in your body. If you wish to try a different type of birth control, your healthcare provider will be able to counsel you about that as well.

If the contraceptive method used stopped monthly bleeding completely, it will typically return in a short time. For example, most people who use birth control pills will resume their periods and the ability to conceive within 90 days after they stop taking the pill. Talk to your provider if you don't experience a return of your menstrual period.

Previous use of hormonal birth control does not impact your ability to get pregnant. If you are unable to conceive after stopping birth control, you and your provider can work together to determine what might be impacting your fertility.

A Word From Verywell

Patience is key when managing the use or discontinuation of any hormonal birth control method. In the same way that it may take some time to find what method works for you (or adjust to a new method), it may also take some time to adjust to not using it. Your healthcare provider can be a great partner and help you investigate other contraceptive methods, such as non-hormonal options, or alternative ways to manage your menstrual periods.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. World Health Organization. Causes and consequences of contraceptive discontinuation: evidence from 60 demographic and health surveys.

  2. American Family Physician: Patient Information. Side effects of hormonal contraceptivesAm Fam Physician. 2010;82(12):1509.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Your guide to going off of birth control.

  4. Planned Parenthood. How do you stop taking birth control pills?

  5. UpToDate. Combined estrogen-progestin oral contraceptives: patient selection, counseling, and use.

  6. Planned Parenthood. What are the side effects and disadvantages of of Depo-Provera?

  7. Michigan Medicine. Menstrual cycle: dealing with cramps.

  8. Tepper DE. Menstrual migraineHeadache. 2014;54(2):403-404. doi:10.1111/head.12279

  9. Premenstrual syndrome.

  10. Girum T, Wasie A. Return of fertility after discontinuation of contraception: a systematic review and meta-analysisContracept Reprod Med. 2018;3(1):9. doi:10.1186/s40834-018-0064-y

By Katie Wilkinson, MPH, MCHES
Katie Wilkinson is a public health professional with more than 10 years of experience supporting the health and well-being of people in the university setting. Her health literacy efforts have spanned many mediums in her professional career: from brochures and handouts to blogs, social media, and web content.