Your Guide to Going Off of Birth Control – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic

Perhaps you are ready to try conceiving, or you might want to switch to a different type of birth control. Whatever the reason, you are ready to stop using your current form Birth control – and you sure want to do it.

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Ob / gynecology Ashley Brant, DO, talks about how to take your birth control off and what to expect afterwards.

Why do you want to give up birth control?

Before you stop using your birth control, think about your considerations that will help you determine when to stop using it.

When you want to try to get pregnant

In most cases, after you stop using birth control, fertility will return very quickly – within a few days of your period starting. That means you could get pregnant shortly after you finish your birth control so make sure you are ready.

“The most common misconception is that you have to stop using birth control months before trying to conceive, and that’s just not true,” says Dr. Brant. “The last thing you want to do is stop using your contraceptives before you’re ready to get pregnant, but then get pregnant right away.”

If you want to switch to another form of birth control

Tired of taking the pill every day and want to try something different? Regardless of the form of birth control you are currently using, it is safe to switch to another method without taking a break. “You can switch directly from one method to the other,” says Dr. Brant.

This means you don’t have to go through a contraceptive interval to switch – and you could get pregnant if you choose to.

If you have negative side effects

While it’s safe to end your birth control mid-cycle, Dr. Brant to end your current session as long as your side effects don’t significantly affect your quality of life.

“I generally encourage people to stick with it until they see a doctor to talk about other methods,” says Dr. Brant. Your doctor can correct side effects and help you find a better form of birth control for your body’s needs.

So put off your contraception

Once you’ve identified the reasons for stopping birth control, how you stop it will depend on the form of birth control you are using. Here’s how to safely stop using contraception and what is likely to happen if you do.

If you take the pill, the patch or the ring

Using oral contraceptives (“the pill”), a patch for birth control, or a vaginal ring can actually help stop the cold.

“When you have some form of birth control that you control yourself, there’s no harm in quitting whenever you want,” says Dr. Brant.

Still, she suggests ending your current cycle rather than stopping in the middle, as you can usually expect to have your period within a few days of canceling it.

“To avoid screwing up your period, just stop your current birth control and then switch to your new form of birth control or stop using it altogether,” she says. If you have to stop taking it sooner – for example if you have negative side effects – try to consult your doctor first to be sure.

If you are using an IUD or a hormone implant

If you have one hormonal implant or an intrauterine device, you will need to make an appointment with your doctor to have it removed.

Are you tempted to remove your IUD on your own? Although a study found that 1 in 5 women are able to successfully remove their own IUD, Dr. Brant does not recommend this.

“It is unlikely to be seriously harmful, but the main risk is that you will pull the IUD and it will come loose but not come out, which can be cramping and painful,” says Dr. Brant. “Now you need a doctor to remove it, and you’ve turned a non-urgent problem into something much more time-sensitive.”

It’s hard to tell how quickly your periods will return after an IUD or hormonal implant is removed. It depends on whether you used a hormonal or non-hormonal IUD, where you are in your current menstrual cycle, how long it takes for the hormones to leave your body, etc.

“Expect your periods to come between the day you removed them and four weeks after,” says Dr. Brant. Your doctor may be able to give you a more accurate estimate based on what type of birth control you were using and whether you had regular cycles before you started using birth control.

Regardless, you can probably expect mild spots and cramps in the meantime.

If you are given a contraceptive injection

Pregnancy shots like Depot check® essentially provide your body with a hefty dose of contraceptives to stay in your system for three months – which makes stopping this type of contraception a little more nebulous than the others.

To stop using this form of birth control, just don’t take your next shot. Be aware, however, that your periods and fertility may take longer than the first three months to return.

“For some people, it takes more than three months for the hormones to wear off,” says Dr. Brant, “and your periods could be even longer.”

Side effects of discontinuing birth control

Your body can experience some changes if you stop using birth control – but these are not exactly side effects.

“Some methods of birth control have non-contraceptive benefits, including lighter, shorter periods, clearer skin, and less facial hair,” says Dr. Brant. “All of these things can come back when you give up birth control because your body is returning to its baseline.”

If you want to stop or change your method of birth control but have questions or concerns about what to expect, ask your doctor to discuss it.

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