By: Nurse Debora Turaga MSN, CNM | Updated November 14, 2022
You’ve spent most of your life trying to prevent pregnancy, but now the tides have turned and you’re ready to get pregnant and start a family! As exciting as this is, it can also feel a little daunting and unnerving as well.
You may be wondering: Could my birth control affect my fertility? How will my body react to being off birth control? How quickly can I get pregnant after I stop birth control?
This guide should help answer some of your questions and give you a little boost of confidence as you begin your journey towards becoming a parent.
When to stop birth control before trying to get pregnant?
The answer to this question depends on the method of birth control you’ve been using most recently. Here’s a breakdown:
Non-hormonal methods (copper IUD, condoms, diaphragm, etc)
These methods prevent pregnancy simply by blocking the sperm from reaching the egg and do not affect your hormone levels or ovulation. There is no need to wait to start trying to conceive, and it’s possible to get pregnant within less than a month.
Hormonal contraceptives (“the pill”, skin patch, and vaginal ring)
Combined methods of contraception contain both estrogen and progesterone, and they prevent pregnancy by hormonally suppressing ovulation. They can also alter conditions within the cervix and uterus that make it harder for sperm to reach the egg. Most women will start ovulating again in 2-3 months. But it can take as little as one month or as long as 6 months.
Progestin-only methods (“minipill”, implant, and hormonal IUDs)
Most contraceptives that contain only a synthetic form of progesterone, called progestin generally do not suppress ovulation. They prevent pregnancy by changing the consistency of your cervical mucus and thinning the uterus lining, making it very difficult for the sperm to pass through the cervix and survive inside the uterus. Ovulation usually occurs within a month of stopping their use. However, it can take a couple months (sometimes more) for conditions within the cervix and uterus to become hospitable to sperm again and for the lining of the uterus to thicken enough to support a healthy pregnancy.
Injectable method (aka the Depo shot)
The Depo shot is also technically a progestin-only method of contraception. However, unlike other methods, fertility takes a lot longer to return because of how the hormone is stored in the body. Also, the dose of progesterone is high enough that ovulation is suppressed. And it can take anywhere from 4 to 18 months from your last shot to ovulate again. The average is between 7 to 10 months. For women who hope to get pregnant within a year, the Depo shot is not a recommended method of contraception.
So, with the above information in mind, we recommend you give yourself at least as long as it generally takes for ovulation to return before you start trying to conceive. And if you can, add a couple of extra months to give your hormones a little more time to regulate. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to use condoms or another type of barrier method.
Does hormonal birth control decrease fertility?
There are many sources and social media accounts that claim that hormonal birth control can cause infertility, especially if used for long periods of time. You can breathe a sigh of relief because there is no significant scientific evidence backing this claim.
Research shows that rates of infertility are about the same between those who have used hormonal contraceptives and those who have not. It can take a little longer to get pregnant, depending on what type of birth control you’ve been on, but most women are able to conceive naturally within a year. This is even true of people who’ve used hormonal birth control for 10 plus years.
How will my body react?
If you are using birth control to treat heavy periods, PMS, or acne, some of your symptoms may come back once you stop. The good news is there are many other treatments available (both conventional and alternative) to help cope with these conditions.
In fact, some of the more natural methods for addressing PMS and hormonal acne—like cutting back on refined carbohydrates, exercising regularly, and taking fish oil—may also help improve your overall health and fertility. Before stopping your birth control, we recommend making an alternate plan for how to address these conditions with your doctor.
It’s not uncommon to experience one or more side effects while using hormonal birth control. Some of the more common side effects include headaches, nausea, decreased sexual drive, mood changes, and weight gain. There is a good chance that once you stop your birth control, these symptoms will improve. So, you can look forward to feeling better soon!
What will happen to my period?
With many forms of hormonal contraception, it can take up to a year for your period to become regular again. This is especially true if you stopped bleeding altogether while you were on birth control.
Irregular cycles are common while hormones regulate after stopping birth control. By tracking your period with the Premom app, you can easily identify any patterns. If your period lasts less than 3 days or more than 7 days, your cycle is less than 21 days or longer than 35 days, and follows no consistent pattern, your cycle is irregular. But don’t fret – this is common for most women!
However, even when your menstrual cycles are still irregular, you could already be ovulating. And if you’re ovulating, it’s possible to get pregnant! This is when using the Premom app and Easy@Home ovulation tests and basal body thermometer to predict your fertility window can be very helpful. Use ovulation tests to ensure you don’t miss your first ovulation as your fertility returns.
What can I do while I wait?
There’s a lot you can do between when you stop your birth control and when you start trying to conceive:
- Take a prenatal vitamin to build up your levels of folate and other nutrients that are important for pregnancy.
- Consider ways you can improve your sleep, exercise, and eating habits. Even small changes can help increase your chances of conceiving naturally and having a healthy pregnancy.
- Schedule a preconception visit with your doctor or midwife.
- Download the Premom app and start familiarizing yourself with the Easy@Home test strips and basal thermometer. You can also check out the premom community forum, information videos, and blog.
Most importantly, remember that whatever worries or questions you have are normal and valid. Don’t forget to give yourself grace and take some time to process all the emotions that come with getting ready to bring a baby into the world.
Debora Turaga is a nurse-midwife with almost a decade of experience caring for women and helping couples welcome their babies into the world. She is passionate about women’s reproductive health, fertility, pregnancy, and birth. As a new mother herself, Debora understands that the journey towards becoming a parent can be as challenging as it is rewarding. Her goal as a midwife is to help make that journey a little easier and as empowering and meaningful as it can be.