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If you’re considering trying to get pregnant, you may be wondering when you need to stop taking birth control before you’ll be able to conceive. Every form of birth control may affect fertility timing a little differently. With most types, fertility can return within three months after stopping, although the timing and steps to stop may vary. This article will walk you through a few different types and when to stop for each.
How to safely stop using birth control
The steps to stopping birth control depend on the form of contraception you use. You can safely stop many forms yourself, including oral birth control pills, vaginal rings, and barrier methods.
But for some types, a trip to the doctor’s office is needed, like for the removal of an intrauterine device (IUD).
Even for a type of birth control you can safely stop by yourself, it’s still helpful and recommended to talk with your healthcare provider first. They can discuss other options, possible side effects of stopping, provide recommendations, and help you understand when you may be able to get pregnant.
When can you get pregnant after stopping birth control?
How long it takes to become pregnant will depend on the method you use and other factors. For most forms of birth control, fertility and regular ovulation return fairly quickly. You may be able to become pregnant within 1–3 months after stopping (Suan, 1989).
When you become pregnant will vary based on multiple factors. It’s considered normal for couples to try for 6–12 months before conceiving, regardless of previous birth control methods. If you are trying to get pregnant for longer than that without success, your healthcare provider can assess your fertility and go over your options.
When to stop taking different types of birth control
You may want to stop taking birth control for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’re experiencing some side effects, or you’re ready to try to get pregnant. Whatever your reason, getting off birth control can feel like a big decision. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider.
Below are some different types of birth control, how to stop, and when you may be able to get pregnant after stopping.
Oral birth control pills
The pill is one of the most popular forms of hormonal birth control (Cooper, 2021). There are multiple versions of oral contraceptives with different amounts of estrogen, progesterone, or a combination of the two. If you’re experiencing side effects from the pill, your healthcare provider can recommend a different type of oral pill or another method.
Potential side effects of hormonal contraceptive use may include: spotting between periods, tender breasts, headache, bloating, and nausea (Cooper, 2021).
Oral pills can easily be stopped whenever you wish, and you don’t have to finish the pack you’re using fully. Contact your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about stopping the pill.
When you stop taking birth control pills, your menstrual cycle may be irregular for a while but should become more regular within three months. You may be able to get pregnant the following month after stopping the pill, but on average, it may take 3–4 months (Suan, 1989).
Can you get pregnant on birth control?
If you’re taking the minipill, which only contains progestin, you potentially could conceive within days of stopping.
Intrauterine devices (IUD)
An IUD is a small, T-shaped device inserted into the uterus. There are multiple hormonal types and copper IUDs. Possible side effects of IUDs include changes in menstrual cycles and cramping. There is a small risk of tearing the uterine lining during placement, infection, and the IUD being expelled from the uterus (Jatlaoui, 2017).
If you’d like to stop using an IUD, you’ll need to schedule a visit with your healthcare provider to have the device removed. After the IUD is removed, you may experience some abdominal cramping and changes to your menstrual cycle.
You may be able to conceive within 1–3 months after the IUD is removed (Suan, 1989).
Depo-Provera is a birth control shot and is sometimes called the depo shot. It uses the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy and help manage some medical conditions related to the menstrual cycle. Side effects may include abdominal pain, mood swings, low sex drive, irregular periods, bone loss, and weight gain (Sathe, 2021).
Your healthcare provider typically administers the shots every three months. You can choose to stop the injections at any time. Still, it’s helpful to discuss changes you want to make with your healthcare provider.
The shot may impact your fertility for longer than other hormonal contraception methods. For some women, it may take 9–10 months after their last shot to become pregnant (Pardthaisong, 1980).
Condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, and sponges are all considered barrier method forms of birth control. The side effects of these methods are minimal. There is a risk for an allergic reaction if sensitive to latex or spermicide that may be present in the products.
You can stop these methods at any time to try to conceive, and you may be able to become pregnant right away.
Nuvaring is a clear, flexible ring inserted into the vagina for about three weeks at a time and releases estradiol to prevent pregnancy. You’ll insert and remove the ring yourself. Usually, you’ll leave it in for three weeks with one week off, when you’ll have your period. Each ring is only used once. Side effects may include vaginal dryness, irritation, and discharge (Britton, 2020).
If you would like to stop using Nuvaring, you can remove it at any time during your cycle. Fertility usually returns quickly after stopping use.
Annovera is a soft, flexible silicone ring inserted into the vagina for three out of four weeks each month. The vaginal ring contains hormones to prevent pregnancy. Possible side effects include headache, irregular menstrual bleeding, vaginal discharge, and nausea (Virro, 2020).
Annovera benefits and side effects
Fertility may return quickly after stopping Annovera, and most women can become pregnant within six months after discontinuing use (Virro, 2020).
When to consult a healthcare provider
If you have any questions or concerns about your birth control, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider. They can help answer any questions you have, help manage side effects, and provide advice.
If you’re hoping to become pregnant, your healthcare provider can offer suggestions for how long it may take for you to become pregnant and other recommendations, such as what to look for in a prenatal vitamin. It’s common for it to take 6–12 months for couples to become pregnant. If you’ve been trying for more than 12 months without conceiving, talk with your healthcare provider about options to help with fertility.
- Britton, L. E., Alspaugh, A., Greene, M. Z., & McLemore, M. R. (2020). CE: an evidence-based update on contraception. The American Journal Of Nursing, 120(2), 22–33. doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000654304.29632.a7. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7533104/
- Cooper, D. B. & Mahdy, H. (2021). Oral contraceptive pills. [Updated Jul 13, 2021]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved on Sep. 7, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430882/
- Jatlaoui, T. C, Riley, H., & Curtis, K. M. (2017). The safety of intrauterine devices among young women: a systematic review. Contraception, 95(1), 17–39. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2016.10.006. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6511984/
- Pardthaisong, T., Gray, R. H., & McDaniel, E. B. (1980). Return of fertility after discontinuation of depot medroxyprogesterone acetate and intra-uterine devices in Northern Thailand. Lancet (London, England), 1(8167), 509–512. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(80)92765-8. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6102234/
- Suan, A. E. & Arshat, H. (1986). Pregnancy after contraceptive use. Malaysian Journal of Reproductive Health: A Publication Of The Reproductive Research Centre of the National Population and Family Development Board, Malaysia, 4(1), 6–11. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12268570/
- Virro, J. J., Besinque, K., Carney, C. E., Gross, D., Bernick, B., & Mirkin, S. (2020). Long-lasting, patient-controlled, procedure-free contraception: a review of annovera with a pharmacist perspective. Pharmacy (Basel, Switzerland), 8(3), 156. doi: 10.3390/pharmacy8030156. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7558341/
Dr. Steve Silvestro is a board-certified pediatrician and Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.