Here's What Actually Happens When You Stop Using Birth Control

April 23rd 2016

Many women know to expect certain side-effects when beginning the Pill, such as weight gain, moodiness, breast changes, and lighter periods. But what happens to the body when someone stops taking their daily dose of pregnant-me-not?

Going from the steady hormonal stasis provided by contraceptives such as the Pill, the ring, and injectable birth control, to the cyclic fluctuations of a natural period unfettered by exogenous hormones is not without turbulence. That said, stopping the pill is not as scary as it may seem. Here’s how dumping your systemic contraceptive might affect your body.

Chemistry Class. 

It helps to think of post birth-control changes in terms of a reversion: stopping the effects of estrogen and/or progestin undoes changes caused by the compounds. Identifying these changes will help inform what to expect when you might want to start expecting.

Hormonal birth control works by flatlining the chemical changes that lead to ovulation, such that the body’s monthly march to pregnancy can be forestalled. Think of it like sledding: you gotta climb a hill before you can slide down it.

Birth control turns an exhilarating sled run into a long, boring stretch of mesa. All of which begs the question: what happens when the hormones start sledding again?

Stormy Weather. 

For many women with tempestuous menses, birth control can bring a blessed calm thanks to the hormonal stability offered by the Pill. Some women on the Pill experience relief of period woes, as the Pill causes lighter periods by thinning the uterine lining. Less lining to shed, less bleeding, less pain.

It follows that by going off birth control, a woman’s experience with her monthly bleed would revert to it’s pre-contraceptive state. And often times, it does. However, this isn’t always the case; a woman’s cycle changes over the course of her life, so you could be in for a surprise if it’s been awhile since you had a non-birth control mediated period.


Slippery Business.

One of the effects of progestin is that it results in thickened cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to thrash furiously egg-ward.

However, without the progestin in birth control, the body exhibits several types of cervical mucus per cycle, making it so that the reproductive tract is most hospitable to sperm around the time of ovulation. And what do sperm like? A wet, hot, slip-n-slide.

Going off birth control might mean that you notice you are more lubricated mid-cycle, or have other changes in the amount and consistency of panty goo.

tl;dr your pussy will probably be wetter, have fun.

True or False?

Will going off the pill…

...make my boobs smaller?

Maybe, but it depends on how the pill made your breasts larger in the first place. The pill can increase water retention, leading to fuller breasts; if you notice some breast deflation occurring during the placebo week, the size increase is probably just water and won’t stay post-BC. However, estrogen can cause breast tissue growth, so the added plumpness might stick around.

...make me break out?

Quite possibly. Hormonal birth control lowers testosterone levels, which can sooth acneic skin by decreasing sebum (oil) production. If going on the pill cleared up your breakouts, chances are they will return once you discontinue the medication.

...make me less attracted to my partner?

Doubtful. The same testosterone-squashing effects of birth control that can improve acne also flatten out the libido-boosting efforts of the big T. Without the Pill, there’s a surge of testosterone mid-cycle, which can make women feel ultra-randy around ovulation. If you used to be horny mid-month, chances are that will come back when you go off birth control.

Testosterone is tied to libido, so having more off it in your system could make you want to bang your partner more. That said, there’s a lot more to attraction than hormone levels, so try not to stress this one too much.

...make me lose weight?

Maybe? Boosting estrogen can lead to weight gain via water retention and increased appetite, and some women report a fuller figure on birth control. However, a systematic review of 44 scientific studies on weight gain and birth control found no evidence that starting the pill causes weight gain. So, if going on the pill may or may not result in weight gain, I think it’s fair to say that going off may or may not result in weight loss.

A word of caution. 

There is a common misconception that there is a sort of grace-period between being on the Pill and being able to get pregnant. This is not true. For methods like the pill, the ring, and the IUD, the hormones suppressing ovulation will be out of the system in a matter of days; for a contraceptive shot, it can take up to six months. From then, it’s a matter of your body’s own hormonal system getting back online. The timeframe for this varies, but it’s possible to get pregnant the first month off birth control, before you even have your first period.

If you’re stopping birth control to get pregnant, you can start trying right away. The fastest it will take to ovulate is about two weeks, assuming your body’s systems come on blasting. Some bodies need a little more time to get ovulating, and it’s normal for a body to take up to three months for her period to return.

But if you’re stopping birth control and you’d rather not get pregnant, it’s important to remember that you most definitely can. Be safe!

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