What Is Post-Birth Control Syndrome?

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Post-birth control syndrome can arise in people with a uterus months after discontinuing their hormonal birth control. The syndrome can bring about symptoms ranging from acne and amenorrhea (absence of periods) to hair loss, migraines, and more.

This article will discuss the syndrome and its symptoms, prevention, and treatment methods.

Birth Control Pills On Pink Background

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What Is Post-Birth Control Syndrome?

Dr. Aviva Romm conceived the term “post oral contraceptive syndrome” in her 2008 textbook, Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. She noted it as one of the possible causes of irregular periods and other hormonal symptoms in those coming off of birth control.

She described post-birth control syndrome as a collection of signs and symptoms that arise after discontinuing hormonal birth control. There is anecdotal evidence from people with a uterus that there can be ill effects from stopping birth control.

However, this is not an issue that has been studied at any length, and more research is needed in this area.

Why Is There Controversy?

The “syndrome” isn’t an official medical condition. Some doctors believe the symptoms that people with a uterus have after stopping hormonal contraceptives aren’t symptoms at all, but rather the body returning to its pre-contraceptive state.

Many people take birth control for non-contraceptive reasons. For example, a person may have been prescribed the pill for period-related issues, so it’s not surprising that those issues return as soon as the pill’s effects wear off.

What Causes the Syndrome?

After you stop taking birth control, your body and menstrual cycle will need some time to adjust, just like they did when you started the pill.

Stopping any form of hormonal birth control removes external sources of progesterone and/or estrogen. This changes the levels of these hormones in the body, which can cause temporary side effects.

Signs of Post-Birth Control Syndrome

Every person reacts differently to going on the pill and then coming off of it. Some people with a uterus may notice huge changes, while others notice very little difference.

Anecdotal reports indicate that stopping hormonal birth control can cause:

  • Changes in the menstrual cycle
  • Heavier periods
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Mood swings
  • Weight changes
  • Acne
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Changes in sex drive

Some of the symptoms of post-birth control syndrome—such as heavy periods, PMS, and headaches—may have been reasons why you started taking the pill in the first place.

It’s common for periods to not return right away; it may take a few months for a natural menstrual cycle to return.

Sometimes described as “post-pill amenorrhea,” this condition refers to a person missing their period for a prolonged time after going off of the birth control pill. However, this is rare, with limited studies showing only 1% to 3% of people go without menstruating past six months.

When to Seek Professional Treatment

Side effects of stopping birth control can disappear quite quickly, though they can last longer for some people. If any adverse effects do not seem to be clearing up, consult your healthcare provider.

It is important to consult your healthcare provider if periods do not return within three to six months of stopping hormonal birth control. If this happens, a person may require treatment to restore the regularity of their cycle if their period doesn’t return after six months, or after three months if they are considering pregnancy.

If you have not had a period within three to six months of stopping the pill, take a pregnancy test to confirm that you’re not pregnant and make an appointment to see your healthcare provider.

Ways to Manage Post-Birth Control Syndrome Symptoms

Just like the side effects of starting hormonal birth control, the side effects of stopping it are temporary. Most symptoms disappear without treatment.

The best approach is to manage each symptom individually—for example, by taking painkillers for headaches or applying cold compresses to sore, tender breasts.

If you are concerned about weight changes after stopping hormonal birth control, you can follow nutrition and physical activity guidelines to maintain or achieve a healthy weight.

There’s evidence to suggest that oral birth control may reduce levels of certain nutrients in the body, including:

  • Vitamins B2, B6, B12, C, and E
  • Folic acid
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc

If you were on oral contraceptives for some time, taking supplements to boost levels of the deficient nutrients may help symptoms of post-birth control syndrome. However, more research is needed to confirm whether supplements are beneficial.

Summary

Some people with a uterus report side effects from stopping birth control, including headaches, period changes, breast tenderness, and more. While post-birth control syndrome is not an officially recognized phrase, it’s a useful umbrella term for the symptoms some people face when they stop taking birth control.

A Word From Verywell

Every person reacts differently to starting birth control, so it makes sense that every person reacts differently when they stop taking it. Post-birth control syndrome may not be an officially recognized condition, but that is not to deny that many people with a uterus experience side effects when they stop taking the pill.

If you are experiencing symptoms that are disrupting your life when you stop taking birth control, or your periods have not returned within six months, speak to your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you safely stop birth control without developing post-birth control syndrome?

    Many people with a uterus stop birth control without any side effects. Side effects may depend on the reasons you started birth control in the first place. For example, if you suffered from PMS, headaches, or heavy periods, these are likely to return when stopping birth control.

  • How long does it take to recover from post-birth control syndrome?

    It may take around four to six months for your body to adjust when you stop taking birth control. If your periods have not returned within six months, seek medical advice.

  • What will my menstrual cycle be like post-birth control?

    Your menstrual cycle may be erratic in the months after you stop taking the pill. Your periods may be late, irregular, or even absent.

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2 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.
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  2. Palmery M, Saraceno A, Vaiarelli A, Carlomagno G. Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013;17(13):1804-1813.