6 signs that you should stop birth control and what to know before you do

You should stop birth control if you are having negative side effects, are 55, or want to get pregnant. AntonioGuillem/ Getty Images
  • You may stop taking birth control if you want to get pregnant, are 55, or want to switch methods.
  • You can get pregnant within days of stopping birth control.
  • Side effects of stopping birth control may include weight changes, acne, and irregular periods.
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There are many reasons why you might want to stop the method of birth control you’re on. For example, if you’re on birth control pills and feel like they aren’t fitting in with your lifestyle or causing unpleasant side effects, you may want to consider trying a new method. Or maybe you’d like to have children or no longer need to use a birth control method because of your age.

Whatever the reason, going off birth control may come with some side effects you may find unpleasant.

Here are some of the reasons why you might want to consider stopping birth control and what to expect when you do.

Why should you go off birth control?

If you’re considering stopping birth control altogether, or changing your birth control method because your current method isn’t working for you, you should discuss your options with your doctor. These are some reasons why you might go off birth control:

You want to conceive

Birth control prevents pregnancy, so if you’re trying to get pregnant, you should stop taking it, whether that means going off the pill, getting your IUD removed, or stopping injections, etc.

For reference, hormonal birth control prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation, impeding sperm’s ability to reach the egg cell, and making it difficult for fertilised eggs to implant in the womb.

You shouldn’t continue to take birth control during pregnancy even if you take it for non-pregnancy related conditions like acne.

You want to switch to a different method of contraception

You may want a different kind of birth control that fits in with your lifestyle or want one that’s less high maintenance. For example, birth control pills, injections, and patches require scheduling where IUDs and other implants are longer lasting.

People sometimes prefer long-acting, reversible contraception methods, like intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants, for this reason. People may also discontinue other contraceptives if they are opting for permanent sterilization, or if their partners are getting a vasectomy, according to Christine Greves, MD, an OB-GYN at the Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.

You are experiencing unpleasant side effects

Every birth control method comes with its own side effects and may affect each person differently. For example, hormonal methods like the hormonal birth control pill can cause nausea, mood changes, weight changes, menstrual irregularities, and breast tenderness.

“Some people don’t like being on hormones because of the way they feel, or the way it affects their mood,” says Greves.

A 2008 study with 1,716 participants on birth control pills found that around 34% of the participants stopped taking them within six months because they experienced side effects like headaches, mood changes, weight changes, and sexual dissatisfaction.

You have certain health conditions

“If you have lupus, cancer, clotting disorders , or an extensive cardiac history, you may need to discontinue traditional combined oral contraception,” says Greves.

Greves also recommends that people above the age of 35 who smoke, have migraines, or elevated blood pressure discontinue the estrogen containing pill, since it can raise their risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

This is because the estrogen in birth control pills can raise your blood pressure levels. Fortunately, the progestin only options are often safe for women with these medical conditions.

You are at an age where you no longer need contraception

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the exact age at which you are no longer at risk of getting pregnant is not known. It is therefore recommended that you continue to take precautions until the age 55, or until you reach menopause. The average age for menopause is 51; however, you could experience it at any time in your 40s or 50.

You were taking the pill for a different reason

“There are different reasons why people take birth control, other than just for contraception. They may stop taking it if they no longer need assistance,” says Greves.

Some of those reasons include preventing acne, regulating menstrual cycles, and improving the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

What should you expect when you go off birth control?

These are some of the things you may experience when you go off birth control.

Side effects of going off birth control

  • Pregnancy:You could get pregnant within days of discontinuing birth control; however, it could take longer if you had irregular periods before you started taking the pill or if you have never had a baby before.
  • Irregularities in your menstrual cycle: Your period may resume shortly after you go off the pill, or it could take up to three months to recommence. “Birth control pills are great for helping painful menses so you may notice some discomfort and lack of regularity when you go off the medication,” says Greves.
  • Acne: Birth control helps prevent hormonal acne, so your acne may return once you go off the pill, according to Greves. You may not have to worry about this if you didn’t have acne before you started taking birth control.
  • Changes in weight: You may experience slight changes in weight when you go off birth control; however those are more likely to be due to fluid retention. The only form of birth control linked to weight gain is Depo-Provera, which is a progestin injection that you need to take every three months.

What are some alternative forms of contraception?

If you want to switch to a different type of contraception, these are some of your options:

Benefits of birth control methods

Insider’s takeaway

If you want to get pregnant, or if you have certain health conditions, stopping birth control or finding a different option may be necessary. You may also choose to stop taking it if it’s causing unpleasant side effects, if you have reached menopause, or if you were taking it for a different reason that you no longer need it for. If you’re not trying to conceive, there are other forms of birth control you can explore to prevent pregnancy.

You may experience acne, irregularities in your menstrual cycle, or changes in your weight when you stop taking it. According to Greves, you can go off birth control at any time during your cycle, although she says you may experience some withdrawal bleeding. “Everyone’s body is different,” says Greves.

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