You might stop taking birth control pills for one or more of several reasons:
- You want to get pregnant
- You’re starting menopause
- You’ve decided to practice a different form of contraception
Your reasons are related sometimes to your health, and other times to your lifestyle. If you’ve decided to stop birth control, here’s what you should know about what happens to your body.
- Your hormone levels will change
When you take birth control pills, you add a small amount of synthetic estrogen and/or progestin hormones to your body. These hormones affect your reproductive organs by:
- Stopping your ovulation
- Enhancing your cervical mucus to help it stop sperm from connecting with an egg
- Changing your uterine lining to prevent a fertilized egg from being implanted
One or more of these mechanisms work to make birth control pills more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. When you stop the pill, you stop the extra hormones. As a result, you might find that your menstrual cycle goes through changes.
- Your periods might become erratic
- Your menstrual flow might get heavier
- Your premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms – such as cramping, headache, and fatigue – might become more or less prominent
- You might lose weight
- You might grow hair or get acne in new and potentially unwanted places
It’s important to remember that you’re changing your body chemistry when you start or stop birth control. Talk with your gynecologist about what’s normal and how to manage your hormone changes.
- You might get pregnant
Since not every woman who goes off the pill plans to get pregnant, it’s important to take note of the fact that stopping birth control does not necessarily mean getting pregnant will be difficult. Many women assume that once they’ve elected to use oral contraception, they’ll have trouble getting pregnant even after they’ve stopped the pill. Not so: Research has shown that temporary birth control methods do not usually compromise fertility.
- Your sex life might flourish (at least your sex drive might)
Some women experience a drop in their libido when they start taking birth control. Don’t be surprised if an elevation in your sex drive occurs when you stop taking the pill.
If you are taking birth control pills and decide to stop, make sure you hold off on this until you have a conversation with your healthcare provider. He or she will be best equipped to help you manage your new hormone levels so you enjoy optimum health (and outcomes) during this new phase of your life.