Pregnancy After Stopping Birth Control

The pill is an effective form of birth control with high success rates at preventing pregnancy. For many women, birth control creates time to focus on career or life goals, and of course, the added peace of mind against unwanted or unexpected pregnancies. But when a woman decides to stop using birth control, a common question is how soon conception can occur.

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Know that timelines vary

The biggest determiner, aside from a woman’s fertility, is the type of contraception that’s being used. Depending on the method, ovulation can resume fairly quickly or may take some time to return. Ovulation is usually suppressed with birth control methods that rely on hormones. After stopping birth control, time is needed for the body’s hormone levels to adjust to normal levels and trigger ovulation. Also, keep in mind that a woman’s lifestyle habits, health, and genetics can also impact how quickly conception occurs after ending a birth control plan.

When ovulation resumes

A woman taking the pill can get pregnant anywhere from days to up to three months after stopping, depending on whether the pill is progestin-only or contains a combination of estrogen and progestin. Women relying on intrauterine devices (IUDs), implants, patches, or vaginal rings can begin ovulating 1-3 months after stopping birth control. Injectable birth control has the longest timeline, with many women not ovulating for as long as 10 months after the last injection.

What to know about combination pills

Whereas conception can happen quickly for a woman who stops taking a progestin-only pill, the same isn’t true for combination pills. Combination birth control pills contain both progestin and estrogen which helps to prevent ovulation and also creates a mucus barrier to prevent the sperm and egg from meeting. Common forms of combination pills have 3 active weeks of pills and then an inactive week. But other versions offer extended cycle versions that may have as many as 84 active pills in a row. A woman on traditional combination pills could get pregnant as soon as a month after stopping birth control. But a woman on the extended cycle version may have to wait longer to conceive.

Timing matters

Another factor to consider is when a woman stops taking birth control. A woman on birth control pills who stops taking contraception halfway through a pack has a higher chance of getting pregnant quickly. But at the same time, stopping abruptly can alter a woman’s cycle. In contrast, a woman who finishes a pack and opts not to continue birth control will most likely have to wait until the menstrual cycle returns to normal. Most fertility experts agree that for optimal results, a woman should finish a birth control pack first, and then wait for at least one menstrual cycle before trying to conceive.

Does the pill impact fertility?

Many people have an unfounded fear that taking the pill can reduce fertility. In contrast, the pill doesn’t impact fertility. Especially for people trying to conceive, waiting a few months for the menstrual cycle to return to normal after stopping the pill can be frustrating. A woman who stops taking the pill has just as many chances of getting pregnant as a woman who doesn’t use oral birth control. When in doubt, women and couples trying to conceive should speak with a doctor to discuss birth control and fertility concerns.

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