If you're thinking it's time to try for a baby, step one is giving your birth control the boot. Once you do, the hormones your pill, patch or ring has been delivering leave your body within five days, after which you might experience surprising symptoms — even some that mimic pregnancy. 

No need to worry: These are just your body's way of catching up with natural cycle changes that were suppressed by hormonal birth control. Here's the scoop on symptoms you'll likely encounter over the next couple months after stopping birth control.

How to stop taking hormonal birth control

Hormonal birth control methods like the pill, patch, ring or hormonal IUD all work by turning off hormone signals that prevent your body from ovulating. Once you stop using the birth control, those hormone signals turn back on and your body is able to ovulate again, usually within one to three months. 

If you're taking birth control pills

You can stop taking them at any point, including in the middle of a pack or cycle.[1] But finishing your current pack before calling it quits might make it easier to predict when your next period will come.

Regardless of when you opt to stop, it’s worth giving your OB/GYN a heads up. He or she can tell you more about any symptoms you might notice post-pill and help you determine what’s normal versus what might not be.

If you have a hormonal IUD

Your OB/GYN will have to remove the device for you. But once it’s out, you’ll go back to ovulating within one to three months.

If you've been getting hormonal birth control shots

These shots work similarly to other hormonal birth control methods. But because a dose lasts for three months, it’ll take at least that long after stopping in order for you to start ovulating again, and some women find that it takes up to a year or two after stopping their shots to conceive.[2]

So if you’re currently on the shot and are hoping to try getting pregnant in the near future, talk with your doctor about when to stop or switch to another method of birth control.

How to stop taking non-hormonal birth control

Hormone-free birth control options don’t affect your body’s hormone signals or stop you from ovulating, so there’s not much to consider when deciding to stop in terms of getting pregnant.

If you’re using a copper IUD, you’ll have to have that removed by your OB/GYN. Once the IUD is removed, you can start trying to get pregnant with your next cycle. 

As for other methods like condoms or barriers? Since they only work to block sperm while you’re using them, it’s possible to get pregnant any time they’re not used.

Side effects of going off birth control

Hormonal birth control methods like the pill, patch, ring or shot work by turning off hormone signals between your brain and pituitary gland and your ovaries to prevent you from ovulating, so you can’t get pregnant. Those hormones — and the ovulation process — turn right back on when you stop taking them, which could lead to some unexpected side effects.

Here are a few symptoms you might experience when you stop taking hormonal birth control:


Just when you want to entice your mate into some baby-making action, a big blemish (or two or 10) pops up on your face. Pimple problems are common after going off hormonal birth control for a few reasons:

  • The pill, patch or ring is no longer pumping your body with estrogen, a hormone that combats oily skin (which is why the pill is sometimes prescribed to treat acne).
  • Stopping birth control boosts your levels of testosterone, a hormone that causes breakouts.
  • Returning to your natural cycle means your hormones are constantly in flux, and your finicky skin responds with zits.

The good news is that there are plenty of topical meds that are safe for keeping acne at bay while you're trying to conceive, plus a host of cover-up cosmetics to camouflage pimples.

Mood swings

It's easy enough to get stressed about conception (and the life change you're making, which is a much bigger deal to swallow than those birth-control meds). But some of those nerves and mood swings may be a result of eliminating the steady flow of hormones your birth control provided, which kept your emotions on a pretty even keel (at least for three weeks every month).

Now that you're off birth control, hormonal fluctuations resume and vary significantly from day to day. Still, whether or not your moods get out of whack might be a coin toss: Some research has found that hormonal birth control actually makes moods worse, while other research finds no link between birth control and women's moods.

Tender breasts

You're in the throes of foreplay when all of a sudden, ouch! Turns out your boobs are also extra sensitive since you gave contraception the slip. And it could make you wonder if you're already expecting, since breast tenderness is an early symptom of pregnancy.

So, sure, while you might have conceived before you got your first period after going off birth control, your sore breasts may actually just be a side effect of your ovaries ramping up again — making estrogen and building an egg. Let your partner know your boobs are ouch-prone right now so they're extra gentle during baby-making sessions. 

Back pains and cramping

Yes, they're annoying, but these aches are signs of exciting things happening in your body. As your body prepares to ovulate every month, the follicle on your ovary holding the egg that could become your baby begins to grow.

When the follicle ruptures and releases the egg and surrounding fluid, it can be irritating, causing cramping and lower back pain. You may even feel a quick pinch on one side of your lower abdomen when the egg matures and releases from an ovary (that's called "mittelschmerz"). While these pains are no fun, they could clue you in as to when you ovulate so you know when to jump in the sack.

If you find that this pain is getting progressively worse, consult with your OB/GYN, since hormonal contraception can mask the painful symptoms of some conditions like endometriosis.

Increased libido

Don't be surprised if your sex drive goes into overdrive once you've ditched your birth control. While research has found the impact is likely minimal, hormonal contraceptives can suppress the libido. 

So it makes sense that when they're out of your system, you might feel friskier — and that's good news for your mission to parenthood. Your sex urge may surge during ovulation, when you're most fertile.

Spotting or heavier flow

If your pill, patch or ring worked perfectly, your periods were regular with a medium flow and you had no (or minimal) spotting at other times of the month. 

It's a whole new ball game now that you're going off birth control. You may spot a bit when you ovulate and perhaps again just before your period officially arrives. And that period may hit with fuller force post-pill, -patch or -ring, since hormonal contraceptives may help keep your menstruation more regular, lighter and shorter. Be prepared with super tampons or pads — at least until you conceive.

Heightened sense of smell

Pregnant noses aren't the only sensitive sniffers. If you haven't ovulated in a while — which you wouldn't have while on hormonal birth control — you may be surprised by just how much your nose knows about fertility. 

In fact, ovulating women's noses are more perceptive than those of women in other parts of their cycle (as well as postmenopausal women, men and kids). This could be because estrogen and progesterone affect your sense of smell, so as those hormone levels fluctuate throughout the month, your sensitivity to scents may differ.

Longer, shorter or less predictable cycles

Birth control makes your period come like clockwork, but stopping can throw that predictability off balance. It can take your body a few months to settle back into a regular ovulation cycle after stopping the pill. (For birth control shots, it can take at least three months and up to one to two years.) 

And when it does, chances are, it’ll look a lot like it did before you started taking birth control. If your cycles are extremely irregular after two months, consult with your OB/GYN.

How to manage the side effects of going off hormonal birth control

Just like you might have felt a little out of whack when you first started using hormonal birth control, it’s normal to feel a little off when you stop. The good news is that your body will adjust pretty quickly — usually within a matter of a few weeks. 

In the meantime, try to take care of yourself. Stress can affect your cycle — and ultimately, exacerbate any unpleasant symptoms you might be dealing with. So make relaxation and self care a priority while your body recalibrates.  

Be open with your partner about what you’re feeling too, so they can help support you as best as possible — whether that means rubbing your sore back or giving you some more space if you’re feeling on edge.

When to call the doctor about side effects of stopping birth control

It's normal to feel not quite like yourself in the first few weeks after stopping the pill or other hormonal birth control. But you should let your doctor know if you haven’t gotten a period after three months, since that could be a sign that your body isn’t ovulating the way it should be. 

You should also talk to your doctor if your post-pill period is getting in the way of everyday life. Let your OB/GYN know if you experience:[3]

  • Very heavy bleeding, where you soak through one or more pads or tampons for several hours in a row or you need to double up on pads
  • Bleeding with clots that are bigger than a quarter
  • Bleeding that lasts for more than seven days
  • Severe or constant abdominal cramping
  • Fatigue or shortness of breath
  • Extremely irregular cycle
Stopping your birth control pills or hormonal birth control can be an adjustment. And while the temporary side effects can sometimes be less than a picnic, they’re all signs that your body is getting ready for your next big step: trying for a baby!