What to Expect When Stopping the Birth Control Pill

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Birth control pills contain synthetic hormones that may cause side effects when they are first introduced, as well as when they are removed. Some women do not experience any noticeable changes when stopping the birth control pill, but there are a few common side effects you should be prepared for. Side effects of stopping the birth control pill may last for several months, but usually subside as soon as your body adjusts to the absence of the synthetic hormones.

Acne

  • Because some acne is a result of excess androgen levels that produce oil in the skin, the synthetic estrogen in combination birth control pills (which contain an estrogen and a progestin) balances androgen levels and may reduce breakouts that coincide with menstrual periods. When stopping the combination birth control pill, some women experience breakouts as their bodies react to the sudden absence of synthetic estrogen. Other skin problems, including unwanted hair growth, are also possible after stopping the birth control pill. If you have been taking a progestin-only pill, you may actually find relief from skin problems when you stop taking the pill.

Amenorrhea

  • You may not have a period for several months after stopping the birth control pill; this is a common condition called post-pill amenorrhea. When you take birth control pills, your pituitary gland senses that it does not need to produce the hormones that cause ovulation. After stopping birth control pills, it may take some time for the pituitary gland to begin producing those hormones again, delaying ovulation and menstruation. If post-pill amenorrhea lasts longer than six months, your doctor may prescribe estrogen blockers in order to stimulate hormone production.

Irregular Menstruation

  • Some women regain fertility right away after stopping the birth control pill, but many still experience irregular menstrual cycles for several months. Your period may be either lighter or heavier than normal and may not match a regular 28-day cycle. This irregularity has the same cause as post-pill amenorrhea, and is more common in women who had irregular cycles before taking the birth control pill. If you do not wish to conceive, it is important to use another birth control method, even if you are not experiencing normal menstruation.

Other Side Effects

  • Other changes that may occur when stopping the birth control pill include changes in appetite, weight or sex drive. These changes vary by individual. Some women lose weight after stopping the birth control pill, while others gain weight. Because birth control pills sometimes decrease sex drive, many women find an increase in sex drive after stopping the birth control pill. Women who have irregular cycles or post-pill amenorrhea may also experience extreme fluctuations in sex drive as their hormones adjust to their natural levels.

Benefits

  • Most of the negative side effects of stopping the birth control pill are temporary and will fade as your hormones regain their natural levels. Stopping the birth control pill has many benefits, including a decreased risk of blood clots and stroke. Because birth control pills may cause an increase in blood pressure, stopping birth control pills may also lower your blood pressure. Most women regain their normal fertility in less than a year.

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