What You Need to Know About Stopping Birth Control to Get Pregnant
Timing a pregnancy can be tricky. Here's what you need to know about stopping birth control in order to conceive.
1. All bodies are different. There's no way to know how long it will take you to conceive, and that's true whether you've been using birth control or not. You can (theoretically) get pregnant immediately the first time you have sex without a condom or your diaphragm, but that doesn't mean you will. Similarly, it's possible to get pregnant almost right away after stopping birth control pills or having your IUD removed. Or, it might take months for ovulation and your period to return to normal.
"The most important thing to know about stopping oral contraceptives is that ovulation can return immediately. The synthetic hormones leave your system in a few days, so you can get pregnant the first month off the pill," says Alexandra Sowa, M.D., an internist in New York City. The same thing is true for IUDs; you can get pregnant the same month your IUD is removed. But, "on the flip side, your period may not return immediately," Dr. Sowa says. "It can take a few months for your period to return." How long it takes your period to return is entirely individual, and has nothing to do with how long you've been using birth control.
2. Make sure you're ready. Because pregnancy can occur almost as soon as you stop contraception, it's essential to make sure you're truly ready for a pregnancy before stopping. Dr. Sowa recommends scheduling a preconception visit with your doctor. He or she can assess your overall health and make sure any preexisting health conditions (such as diabetes or asthma) are under control before you get pregnant. The healthier you are, the healthier your baby-to-be will be.
Making sure you're ready also means using contraception until you're absolutely sure you're ready to be pregnant. Don't go off the Pill now because you'd like to be pregnant in six months. If getting pregnant now would cause a serious problem in your personal or professional life, it's best to wait.
3. Ideally, you want to stop birth control at least one month before conception. If you've been on the Pill, it's a good idea to finish out your pill pack, rather than stopping mid-month. "When you stop the pill pack in the middle of your cycle, your uterus may get confused and start bleeding, even though it isn't your 'period,'" Dr. Sowa says. "Secondly, if you stop in the middle of the cycle, it can be hard to judge when you're ovulating."
If you get pregnant as soon as stopping birth control, congrats! If not, that's OK, too. In fact, it'll be easier for you and your health care team to estimate your due date if you've had at least one menstrual period before conception.
4. Relax and enjoy the process. Using continuous oral contraceptives, an IUD, or Depo-Provera has no long-term effect on fertility. Don't stress too much if your period doesn't immediately return to normal; remember, it can take a few months for your body to re-adjust. However, if your period hasn't returned after three months, it's a good idea to check in with your doctor.